Kansas puts off school payments

TOPEKA — Kansas is delaying $200 million in aid payments to public schools this month so it can meet state government's payroll and pay other bills on time, its top budget official said Tuesday.

It will be the third consecutive month that an ongoing cash crunch has led the state to postpone payments to its 295 school districts. State officials expect nearly 100 districts will be forced to violate cash management laws to pay their own bills.

The payments to schools, representing part of general aid to school districts, were due last Friday.

State Budget Director Duane Goossen said the state hopes to make half the payments by the end of the week. It doesn't expect to pay the rest until the end of January because it won' t collect enough tax revenue in its main bank account until then.

"It depends on how fast money comes in," Goossen said. "These bills will be paid. It's just that we don't have the cash right now to do it."

The Wichita school district is "OK for now," spokeswoman Susan Arensman said.

The district has been making payroll by tapping into its contingency fund, which has dropped from $14 million to $3 million since December, she said.

Even if the state continues to delay payments, Arensman the district should be able to keep paying employees through at least January thanks to an expected $25 million in local property tax dollars, which the district collects twice a year.

She said the district plans to use the local tax payments to rebuild its depleted contingency fund to guard against future delays in state aid.

"This is why we have the contingency fund," Arensman said.