Appropriations budget includes proviso aimed at school savings

The House Appropriations Committee this morning advanced to the House floor HB 2364, its “mega” budget bill for state agencies for the next two years, FY 2018 and FY 2019. Preliminary staff estimates showed the bill gives the state a $100.1 million ending balance for FY 2017, a negative $248.6 million balance in 2018, and a negative $237 million ending balance in FY 2019.

The amended bill that passed out of committee included a proviso establishing a task force to study budget savings related to procurement contracts and school district employee health insurance. The task force will make a recommendation for savings to the 2018 Legislature.

The procurement and health insurance savings task force, which will be coordinated by the Secretary of Administration, will include a representative of Wichita USD 259, a representative from a rural school district as appointed by the secretary, two legislators appointed by the Speaker of the House, one legislator appointed by the House Minority Leader, and any additional members as deemed necessary by the secretary.

Gov. Sam Brownback proposed reducing state aid by $47 million in FY 2018 and $89 million in FY 2019 based on estimated savings from a consolidated health insurance programs for school districts and requiring selected item be purchased through the state Department of Administration.

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee received a report from the Secretary of Administration after meeting with education leaders and others that those savings could not be realized, but recommending further study of school district efficiencies in these and other areas. The House Appropriations Committee agreed to restore the Governor’s reductions.

Earlier this week, the committee voted to shift $7 million to pay for Parents As Teachers programs from federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funds to the state Children’s Initiatives Fund, reversing a change made two years ago.

TANF funding is limited to low income families and those who meet other eligibility requirements. Ranking Democrat Kathy Wolf-Moore says PAT leaders report these requirements discourage needy families from participating due to social stigma, especially in small communities.

Shifting funding to the CIF, the prior source of revenue, means that federal requirements would not apply. For most of the PAT program’s history, it has been open to all families.

On Monday, the committee reversed an earlier decision to add $140 million for Kansas Public Employees Retirement System contributions in FY 2018 and an additional $193 million in FY 2019 to keep on schedule to pay off the unfunded liability of the KPERS system.

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