New cuts won’t harm USD 410 this year

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
USD 410 will lose around $29,000 for the current school year as a result of additional state budget cuts announced last week-but the district prepared for that possibility during the budgeting process and won’t feel a significant economic pinch this year, according to Superintendent Gordon Mohn.

Gov. Bill Graves announced $41 million in cuts Thursday-including $17.5 million for K-12 schools-to offset deepening shortfalls in state revenues.

Mohn said Graves’ announcement was not unexpected.

“We had built the budget anticipating a 1- or 2-percent cut, so we’ve got it in the budget to get by,” he said. “I’d guess there’ll be some more (state cuts). It could be 3 percent (by the end of the school year).”

Mohn said if that happens, the district would simply spend down its cash reserves rather than make program cuts in midstream.

“We have money at the end of the year we can transfer, and it becomes cash reserves,” he said. “We’ll probably just reduce that reserve as it gets to 3 percent.”

Mohn said even though the cuts were somewhat expected, the overall picture is still disheartening for public education.

“I think what the legislature did was let the public think it had increased base aid to schools by $20 when in fact we’ll get to $7 less per student,” Mohn said.

During the recent legislative session, lawmakers raised the base budget from $3,870 to $3,890 per student. With the projected cuts, the base budget actually will be $3,863.

“They left Topeka saying ‘we increased funding for schools’ in all likelihood knowing they weren’t going to have the revenue to fund that,” Mohn said.

Graves and state budget director Duane Goossen released figures last week estimating state revenues falling $108 million short of budget in the first half of fiscal year 2003, a figure they say may repeat itself the second half of the year.

“It really makes next year look dismal for the legislature,” Mohn said, “especially when you have one of the candidates (for governor) running on a platform that he pledges not to raise taxes.”

Mohn said many state legislators opposed tax increases already this past session, but ended up approving some because they discovered state programs could not be cut enough to meet the state’s decreasing revenue.

Mohn said USD 410 used last year’s enrollment of 693 students to figure its 2002-03 budget. Enrollment for this year was projected to be 668 and currently stands at 671.

Using that lower figure for the 2003-04 budget will make a noticeable impact on the USD 410 budget for 2003-04, Mohn said, if the legislature does not raise taxes to compensate for post-session cuts.

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