- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Hutchinson USD 308’s tentative budget for 2015-16 calls for a nearly 4.2 mill levy hike.

The budget is built on a combination of reduced spending and tax increases. The cuts include: several instructional coaches and several teaching positions at the elementary school level, along with a middle school librarian position and a high school language teaching position, plus reducing administration support and photocopier expenses.

“We’re still nervous the state may not be able to fund us next year,” said Lori Blakesley, executive director of fiscal management and business operations, at an informational budget session for board members Monday evening.

“Somehow, we’re just not buying that that state block grant is sacred,” said Superintendent Shelly Kiblinger.

Kiblinger said they don’t want to trim staff during the school year, and the budget contains flexibility if the state cuts school funding during the budget year because of a state revenue shortfall.

For example, USD 308 routinely sets aside $400,000 to purchase new textbooks or materials. School board members who initiated that practice years ago were “geniuses,” Blakesley said. That sum for 2015-16, however, is viewed as reserve dollars in an uncertain fiscal year.

School board members were reminded by district officials that the state “reneged” on equalization aid — aid paid to poorer districts such as Hutchinson USD to help keep education uniform across Kansas. The lost state aid amounted to an approximately $313,000 loss for the Hutchinson district.

The school district’s mill levy still will be lower than it was a couple of years ago. It topped 60 mills in 2013-14, then fell to 52 mills in 2014-15. Now, it’s headed upward by over 4 mills.

Kiblinger cautioned the budget information that will be published, as required by law, will make it appear USD 308 is awash in money and plans to spend $11 million more next year than this year. State-ordered accounting changes, however, are behind the figures, she pointed out.

The Legislature replaced a school finance formula with block grants. Four buckets or funds are collapsed into one bucket, Blakesley explained.

“Technically, you don’t have any new money,” Blakesley said.


(c)2015 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)

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