Hearings planned for bond cap, Gannon equity issues

Hearings have been scheduled next week on bills to remove the one-year-old statewide cap on school district construction bonds and address provisions in last year’s school finance bills the Kansas Supreme Court said create unconstitutional inequities. 

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee holds a hearing Monday at 1:30 p.m. on HB 2636, which repeals a provision in last year’s school finance bill, SB 19, that limited the amount of bonds which can be approved for submission to local voters by the State Board of Education. The limit is the amount of bonded debt retired the previous year. The cap does not apply to districts with debt of less than 14 percent valuation per pupil (which do not require State Board approval) or districts which have not issues bonds in the past 25 years.  

The provision was added to SB 19 last year in conference committee and had not received a hearing in any committee and had not been passed separately by either the House or Senate. 

KASB opposes the arbitrary limit on school construction bonds and supports the bill. 

The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance holds a hearing Monday at 3:30 p.m. on SB 423, which would remove the 10 percent “floor” in counting students qualifying for free meals for the at-risk weighting in the school finance formula. It would also disallow the use of capital outlay funds to pay for utility expenses, as well as property and casualty insurance premiums. In both cases, the Supreme Court said those provisions create wealth-based advantages for certain districts. 

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee holds a hearing Tuesday on HB 2445. Like SB 423, it would also repeal the 10 percent at-risk floor and use of capital outlay for insurance and utilities, but would make several other changes as well. 

The bill would address two other “equity concerns” raised by the court in Gannon by providing that any Local Option Budget (LOB) resolution that was adopted prior to July 1, 2017, increasing the LOB percentage to 33 percent without an election for voter approval would be considered null and void; and further providing that LOB state aid would be based upon the current year budget rather than the preceding year’s budget. In addition, it would require that any school district that wants to increase its LOB authority for the immediate succeeding school year would be required to submit a written notice of intent to the State Board of Education by April 1 of the current school year. 

The bill also would amend the statute for Transportation State Aid formula to align with the current practice of aid distribution by the Department of Education. This is the same provision as in HB 2561, which has a hearing in the same committee today. 

Finally, the bill would make technical changes regarding the declining enrollment weighting and make the calculation of bilingual and vocational education weightings based upon the current school year, rather than the prior year. 

KASB supports changes to comply with Gannon equity concerns. 

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