Archive for Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kansas schools, colleges, hospitals would feel sting of cuts

June 10, 2015

— Kansas schools could be forced to increase class sizes, and state universities and hospitals would lose funding under spending cuts that a top aide to Gov. Sam Brownback says are likely if legislators don't increase taxes to avert a budget shortfall.

Officials in some agencies said Tuesday that they're still trying to evaluate the effects of a potential 6.2 percent across-the-board cut in the state funds budgeted by lawmakers for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget doesn't balance, and Budget Director Shawn Sullivan has said the Republican governor would most likely impose a $400 million cut in spending if the GOP-dominated Legislature fails to pass a tax plan to make up the difference.

Republican Rep. John Rubin, of Shawnee, said he believes there's room to cut spending, but he said an across-the-board reduction for all agencies would be "irresponsible."

As for Sullivan outlining potential cuts, Rubin said, "It's meant to apply added pressure."

Sullivan said he provided details Monday night to a meeting of House Republicans because he was asked to answer questions about the consequences of not passing tax plan.

"I'm not out making threats," he said Tuesday.

Here is a look at the effects of potential cuts.


AID FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Sullivan has said the potential cuts would reduce aid to public schools by $197 million, wiping out all increases lawmakers previously approved to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate last year to boost aid to public schools. Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said local school districts' budgets would return to 2012 levels.

You're going to have to be talking about holding open positions, to raise class sizes," Tallman said. "You're probably going to be talking about having to look at things like possible fee increases."

Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said the state wouldn't reduce spending on special education programs to avoid losing federal dollars, and it wouldn't cut contributions to teacher pensions. Instead, general aid would be reduced.

"That's heat, light, utilities and staff, and transporting kids," he said.


EFFECT ON LOCAL SCHOOLS

The state Department of Education produced a spreadsheet Tuesday showing how much each of the state's 286 schools districts could lose. It would be a total of $67 million for the state's seven largest districts, in terms of student numbers.

The state's largest district, Wichita, would lose $22 million.

The Kansas City, Kansas, district would lose $10.8 million. Superintendent Cynthia Lane said it now has only $8 million in cash reserves.

"That could be a catastrophic cut," Lane said. "I don't know how we'll respond."

In Johnson County, Olathe would lose $10.2 million; Shawnee Mission, $8.3 million, and Blue Valley, $6.1 million.

Topeka also would lose $6.1 million and Lawrence, $3.8 million.


HIGHER EDUCATION

The Kansas Board of Regents said the state's higher education system would lose $48 million from the potential spending cuts.

"It does not take much of an analysis to say a 6 percent cut across the system would be devastating," regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson said. "It is not going to be an easy conversation."

University of Kansas spokesman Tim Caboni said its Lawrence campus would lose $8.3 million from the cuts and its Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, would lose $6.7 million, for a total of $15 million.


STATE HOSPITALS

Sullivan said the potential cuts would cost the state Department for Aging and Disability Services about $41 million and its four hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled nearly $5 million more.

"It would have a pronounced effect on all of our operations," said department spokeswoman Angela DeRocha.

Larned State Hospital would lose $2.7 million, and Osawatomie State Hospital, about $770,000. Both serve the mentally ill.

Parsons State Hospital would lose $675,000, and the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka, $590,000. Both serve the developmentally disabled.


Associated Press writer Nicholas Clayton contributed to this report.

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