School finance workshops focus on new funding

It’s school finance workshop season in Kansas, and state leaders are urging district budget officials to take advantage of the additional funding provided by the state legislature and approved by the Kansas Supreme Court. 

Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis and School Finance Director Craig Neuenswander were in Salina on Wednesday to brief about 200 superintendents clerks and school business officers on the impact of the 2019 Legislature’s work and to walk them through the budget software released this week. School district budgets for Fiscal Year 2020 must be finalized by mid-August. 

Dennis told the crowd that school boards are in a “unique and unusual position” as they prepare their Fiscal Year 2020 budgets. That’s because the 2019 school funding inflationary adjustments added by the legislature and approved by the Court have resulted in a roughly six percent increase in base state aid per pupil for the coming school year. And coupled with annual increases approved by the 2017 and 2018 legislatures and the Courtschool boards will have some budgetary certainty for the first time in many years. 

Dennis said some superintendents and boards may be cautious about committing some of the new funding right away because they’re accustomed to years of stagnant or declining state funding.  

 “You’re going to have to help them” have the courage to increase teacher salaries and invest in programs that target at-risk students, Dennis said. “That’s what the legislature is going to be looking for.”  

Dennis and Neuenswander warned the school officials not to give in to the temptation to hedge against uncertainty by socking money away in reservesDennis said statewide reserves sit at roughly $2 billion, and the certainty provided by the legislature and the Court will make it difficult to defend sitting on cash unless there’s a demonstrable reason for those reserves. 

 Conduct your business responsibly, but be able to explain your plans if you make transfers to reserves,” Neuenswander said. 

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