The Wichita school district's proposed budget would keep the district property tax rate where it has been for three years despite significant cuts in state and federal funding, officials said Monday.
"We know in tough economic times, we need to be mindful of that ... fiscal responsibility to our community," superintendent John Allison told board members during a brief budget workshop.
Allison's proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year is $606 million — about $26 million less than last year's, or a decrease of about 4 percent.
It calls for cuts in almost every area of the district's unrestricted funds, including 140 teaching positions; 49 paraeducators; 38 support positions, such as custodians, clerks, secretaries and food service workers; and 10 district administrators.
The number of school administrators — principals and assistant principals — will increase by one position next year, from 168 to 169.
Allison said the plan also features a "sizable use of end-of-year cash balances and reserves," at about $6.8 million.
It calls for replacing high school librarians with library clerks and eliminating funding for several popular programs, including elementary orchestra, National Academic League and Parents as Teachers. Allison's plan also reduced the number of schools that receive Title 1 funding, decreased the amount of Title 1 funding schools receive and put many bond projects on hold.
Board president Betty Arnold said the budget doesn't reflect some previous cuts in state and federal funding, including reductions in matching funds for the 2008 bond issue, that continue to affect the district's ability to maintain and staff new schools and classrooms.
Earlier this year the board voted to re-evaluate its $370 million bond issue, a move that could alter or delay many long-awaited projects, including a new high school in southeast Wichita.
Allison noted that parts of the budget picture still are unclear until officials get word about the precise level of property tax valuations.
He said school districts could face a "perfect storm" next year, as state lawmakers consider restructuring the tax code and changing the formula for the way schools are funded.
"All those pieces coming together could... have far-reaching impact on every one of our citizens," he said.
The school board is slated to discuss the budget in more detail and vote on it July 25. It will hold a public hearing and adopt the budget Aug. 8.