Senate committee continues hearings on smaller school funding boost

The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance continues hearings this morning on SB 251, a two-year school finance bill similar in structure to a plan developed by a House committee but providing $4 million less in school funding next year and $45 million less funding in the second year.

Senate committee chair and Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said the committee is expected to finish hearings today and could begin working the bill immediately.

Although both bills restore most components of the previous school finance system used before the block grants and establish a new base or foundation per pupil of $4,006 next year, the Senate version sets a base of $4,080 in Fiscal Year 2018-19, while the House version moves to $4,128.

Another difference is that the Senate plan includes a monthly fee on utility bills to raise an estimated $150 million. That provision is expected to draw considerable attention in hearings this morning.

The Senate bill not does include several provisions in the House bill, including a new mandate for autism services and new authority for a “local excellence budget” that would replace the cost of living weighting and allow districts with fewer low income students to raise more local funds. The House plan also adds about $20 million in the first year by raising the at-risk weighting factor.

The Senate version raises the maximum capital outlay levy from 8 to 10 mills. Both bills would expand the authorized uses of capital outlay to include utilities payments, and the Senate bill allows capital outlay funding to be spent on property and casualty insurance and computer upgrades and maintenance.

The Senate bill also “sunsets” bilingual, at-risk, high at-risk and virtual weighting in 2020, so the Legislature would have to review and address those issues.

Another difference is that the Senate bill prospectively prohibits cities and counties from granting property tax abatements for the 20 mill statewide school levy and district capital outlay levies for economic development projects.

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