Basehor, Bonner school districts seek additional state funds
As the 2015-16 school year begins, concerns local superintendents expressed in the spring have proven true: with enrollment increases, both districts now are seeking additional state aid.
Basehor-Linwood USD 458 started school last week and so far has reported a districtwide enrollment increase of 90 students, or 4.32 percent. Bonner Springs-Edwardsville USD 204 just started school on Tuesday but was estimating a districtwide enrollment increase of about 40 students, or 1.55 percent. Both have applied for additional funding through the Extraordinary Need State Aid Program under the state’s block grant school finance law.
However, local districts will have a lot of competition. According to the Kansas Association of School Boards, requests for additional state funding total $15.1 million, and only $12 million is available.
“We have already hired additional teachers this year and we would consider adding another one or two if the money was there and there are qualified applicants at the end of August,” USD 458 Superintendent David Howard said. “If not, I guess we will continue to spend down our contingency fund until there is nothing left.”
The two-year block grant finance law froze the level of state operating funds available to schools at 2014-15 levels. When the block grant law was approved, both Howard and USD 204 Superintendent Dan Brungardt said the law wasn’t fair to growing districts, who wouldn’t be guaranteed more state aid, while shrinking districts would receive the same amount of money as they did last year.
Basehor-Linwood district has requested $358,830 in additional funds; Bonner Springs-Edwardsville is requesting $155,094 more. Neither district included a property tax rate increase in its 2015-16 budget.
The USD 204 Board of Education discussed its enrollment increases at its Monday meeting. Brungardt said the district already hired two additional fifth-grade teachers over the summer, one at Delaware Ridge Elementary and another at Edwardsville Elementary.
He told the board that kindergarten enrollment at Edwardsville had increased to 75 students with only three teachers. Because kindergarten usually has a lower student-to-teacher ratio, the board gave approval to hire a fourth kindergarten teacher for the school.
Monday was the deadline for districts to submit applications for extraordinary needs funding. The applications will be considered Monday, Aug. 24, by the State Finance Council, which is headed by Gov. Sam Brownback. Legislative leaders also sit on the council.
Other local districts have also seen enrollment increases: Piper reported an estimated enrollment increase of 60 students, requesting $239,218, while Kansas City, Kan., is making the largest aid request in the state at $2.02 million, reporting an enrollment increase of 507 students, a 2.5 percent increase.
In all, KASB reports that 19 districts in the state are seeking a total $8.6 million due to increases in enrollment totaling 1,745 students.
Another 22 district are seeking a total $6.5 million because of property tax loss, mostly due to falling oil and gas prices that have decreased property valuations, KASB reported.
A three-judge panel has declared the block grant finance law unconstitutional, but that decision has been appealed by the state to the Kansas Supreme Court.
So for now, the state will perform an official enrollment count for districts Sept. 21. If a districts received additional aid and are found to have overestimated its, then it would have to return the difference.