Dave Trabert and the Kansas Policy Institute continue to imply that Kansas public school districts have plenty of money and can use carryover money to avoid budget cuts ("Tax increases and lawsuit not needed," Jan. 10 Opinion). Trabert did acknowledge that some carryover is necessary, but he did not provide information on why the carryover is necessary or how much is needed to enable school districts to start the next school year.
The reason is simple: School districts start school in August, but they do not receive general-fund money until September and special-education money until October. School districts have to have carryover money for transportation, food service, special education and other areas to start school. The amount of carryover money needed to start school varies depending on the student population in each district.
School districts are allowed to put some carryover funds in a contingency fund. School districts have been encouraged by legislators to contribute to their contingency fund each year if possible. This year most school districts will need to use a combination of budget cuts and contingency-fund money (one-time money) just to get through the year.
Using contingency-fund money will help this year, but depending on how much is used, it may not be available next year. School districts will have to make cuts in next year's budget to compensate for any use of contingency-fund money. These cuts will be compounded by any additional cuts that the state may make to K-12 funding.
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The Kansas Policy Institute continues to focus on carryover funds. It should look instead at cash flow during the year. This year the state has delayed payments to school districts on several occasions. When it does this, it has asked school districts to let the state know how much money they must have to pay bills until the full payment is sent. This is a sign that school districts do not have the extra money that the Kansas Policy Institute indicates they have.
School districts continue to look for ways to provide a quality education and be more efficient. My school district (Derby) has been doing this for a number of years and this year volunteered for a Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit review of our finances. This has been helpful, but we are now at a point where the only options left will affect the quality of education being provided.
Educating our kids is the most important thing we do, and it is vital to the future of our state.
It is very important that our legislators follow the state constitution and fund public schools appropriately.