Legislators don?t foresee more school funding coming soon

City Administrator Larry Paine (left) shares perspectives with Sen. Clark Schultz after Saturday?s meeting.Hillsboro?s two state legislators agreed they?d like to see public schools in Kansas receive more state funding, but they also agreed it isn?t likely to happen anytime soon, given the atmosphere in Topeka.

About a dozen residents, most of whom work in leadership roles within the community, showed up for the annual legislative coffee sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce Saturday morning at city hall.

The featured guests were State Rep. Don Schroeder of Inman, who represents Hills?boro and much of southern Marion County in the 74th House District, and Clark Schultz of McPherson, who was a state representative before his recent appointment to fill the 35th Senate District seat vacated by Jay Emler when he was appointed to the Kansas Corporation Commission.

The two lawmakers agreed the Kansas Supreme Court school financing decision announced March 7 might result in lower property taxes for district patrons because of the court?s support of equitable distribution, but there will be little if any additional funding for classrooms.

Steve Noble, USD 410 superintendent, said if the Legislature decided to maintain basic state aid per pupil at $4,433, but restored full state subsidies for local option and capital outlay budgets, 410 taxpayers could see a reduction of $150,000 in regard to the LOB and $85,000 for capital-outlay funding, which goes toward facilities and furnishings.

As for more classroom support, Schultz and Schroeder said the state currently has a $135 million cash reserve, but designating it for classroom use would be a one-time gesture because the state would have no cash reserves left for future years.

As a result of the bill lawmakers passed two years ago at the urging of the governor to eliminate income taxes for businesses, state revenue ?will continue to be tight for the foreseeable future.?

Because the state is legally bound to operate on a cash basis and cannot borrow money to pay its budget obligations, Schultz said legislators are left with several difficult choices.

State Sen. Clark Schultz (left) responds to a question during the legislative coffee sponsored Saturday by the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce. Rep. Don Schroeder awaits his turn. About a dozen residents attended the meeting.?You have to say we?re going to take money from elsewhere in the budget and move it to education, or we?re going to raise sales tax, or were going to raise property taxes or we?re going to raise income taxes,? he said. ?Obviously, there?s problems with all of those.

?It?s a real concern where to go from here,? he added.

Changing local elections

Noble also voiced his concern about a bill that would move local elections for cities and school districts from spring to fall.

Noble said his primary concern would be that newly elected school board members would begin their term Jan. 1?which falls in the middle of the school year?rather than July 1, under the present system.

Noble said a Jan. 1 start could handicap a board because the new member would not have been part of the budget process and would be unfamiliar with sensitive issues as staff evaluations begin.

He said his biggest concern was the prospect of making school board elections partisan. In each of the previous three years, the USD 410 board had to appoint a board member for lack of candidates on the ballot. Under the new system, he said, partisan precent committees would have that responsibility.

?Living in small towns most of my life, we get along because we don?t let partisan politics get in the way of progress for our schools,? he said.

Schroeder and Schultz, who both previously served on school boards, said the election bill doesn?t have energetic support, at least in this session.

?I think it?s kind of a solution that?s looking for a problem,? Schroeder said.

Mortgage fee

In terms of time, the issue that generated the most attention is a bill promoted by some Realtors and bankers to eliminate the mortgage registration fee that is required when a new mortgage is filed in a county register of deeds office.

Only buyers who borrow money to purchase a property are required to pay the fee.

Schultz said the law is clearly unfair, but the problem is that county governments rely on the revenue from that fee to fund its register of deeds office.

?It?s a ridiculous tax, it?s unfair?but counties need it to operate,? Schultz said.

Cynthia Fleming, president of Hillsboro State Bank and the spouse of a county commissioner, said her understanding is that the bill is being pushed by Kansas bankers near the state?s eastern border who are losing mortgage loans to banks in Missouri, which has no such fee.

?What is it doing to our counties if we just get rid of it?? Fleming asked. ?Maybe big counties don?t need it, but small counties, rural counties, definitely do.?

Clark agreed.

?It is a difficult issue because the counties are relying on that money for county government,? he said.

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