Senate opens hearings on school finance; may raise money with utilities charge

The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance is scheduled to begin hearings today on the school finance bill that has not yet passed the House, as well as a proposal to raise $150 million annually for K-12 aid through a new fee on utility bills and other alternatives in a proposed Senate substitute bill.

The committee is expected to continue hearings through Friday, and may extend hearings or begin to work the bill on Saturday. The House has not yet scheduled its floor debate on Sub HB 2410, which was reported without recommendation by the K-12 Education Budget Committee Monday.

Yesterday, the Senate committee reviewed components of the House bill as amended by the House committee. Senate committee chair and Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said a new Senate bill would be introduced that follows the House bill, but with several key changes.

KASB’s testimony before the committee contains a side-by-side comparison of KASB’s school finance positions; Sub HB 2410 as reported by House committee; the differences described yesterday in the proposed Senate bill; and KASB’s chief comments and concerns of major issues. That testimony is available here.

The following are differences in the House bill proposed by Denning. Note that the Senate substitute bill has not yet been introduced, so these provisions are subject to change; and may also be amended by the committee and the full Senate.

  • A monthly fee on utility bills of $2.25 for residential and $10 for commercial would be imposed to raise approximately $150 million per year, dedicated to school funding.
  • The House bill requirement that districts provide Applied Behavior Analysis services for students on the autism spectrum in certain circumstances is removed, as well as funding mechanism.
  • The maximum capital outlay levy is raised from 8 to 10 mills, and the allowable uses of capital funds is further expanded to include property and casualty insurance and computer upkeep.
  • The cost of living weighting, which is deleted in the House bill, would be maintained in the Senate bill, and the Senate plan does not create a new “local excellence budget” that would be available to districts with fewer low income students, more restricted in usage and provided less state equalization aid than the local option budget.
  • The Senate bill continues to use  the term “Local Option Budget” rather than changing the name to “Local Foundation Budget,” and the “artificial” base for determining LOB authority is indexed to inflation.
  • Both the 20-mill statewide levy and the capital outlay levy would be exempted from authority of local governments to abate taxes for future economic development projects.
  • Foundation aid will be indexed using a three-year rolling average, rather a single prior year.
  • The at-risk weighting is set at the level of the previous formula (0.456) rather an increased as under the House bill.
  • The transportation aid grandfather provision is for two years rather than five in the House bill.
  • The bill will provide for a Legislative review of enrollment weighting, likely including consideration of a sparsity factor.
  • A further adjustment is made for the military student count.

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