KASB, others urge passage of bill to repeal school bond cap

KASB, school administrators, builders and bond consultants on Monday urged the House K-12 Education Budget Committee to rescind a cap on school bond issues.  

During the hearing, Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, said the Legislature will likely repeal the bond cap, but the committee took no immediate action. 

The committee, which is preparing to write a school finance bill in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s Gannon ruling, heard testimony on HB 2636, which rescinds a provision that was enacted in 2017 in SB 19. That law contained a section that prohibits the State Board of Education from approving school bond issues more than the amount of debt retired in the previous year.  

KASB Associate Executive Director Mark Tallman said because the bond provision was added during conference committee deliberations, education advocates and others didn’t have a chance to testify on it and many legislators may not have been fully aware of the implications of the policy.  

Tallman noted the cap doesn’t take into account student enrollment growth, inflation, higher building cost or changing school security and efficiency standards. Further, Tallman said, school bond issuers are already subject to direct local voter approval and are a boost to local economies. 

USA-Kansas Executive Director G.A Buie, also testifying on behalf of the Kansas School Superintendents Association, said Kansas school districts have undergone a number of changes over the past quarter-century. Those changes included rural school consolidation and population shifts to suburban and urban districts that prompted patrons to support bond issues to support aging buildings or construct new schools. Buie said the bond cap means schools may not be able to build and maintain the schools Kansas needs. 

Bond underwriting companies Piper Jaffray and George K. Baum Company also urged passage of HB 2636, citing continuing school improvement construction needs across the state. They also noted that many school districts have delayed planned bond issues for a year or more in anticipation of not being approved under this year’s cap. Those delays, the companies said, could mean higher costs to local taxpayers and higher cost to the state for districts that receive state aid.  

Construction firms and several growing school districts also urged the committee to pass the bill and rescind the bond cap to better serve students and to stimulate local and state economies through wages, purchases and local investments. 

The lone opponent to the bill was the Kansas Policy Institute.

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