Fast?s testimony makes an impact in Topeka

These past two weeks brought Superintendent John Fast, of Goessel, to Topeka to testify before the Education Committee on the subject of small schools, large schools and consolidation.

His testimony was not only well-received, but I believe it helped other legislators understand the commitment to quality education we find in the 70th District.

HB 2407 advocated we restrict funding to schools with less than 400 students, unless they have more than 200 square miles in the district. The issue is one of community pitted against economy of size.

Recalling my education in a high school of about 120 students, I understand firsthand the challenges of small schools, and I am not ready to watch our smaller communities empty.

Additionally, we would see no benefit from any consolidation for several years?it would not affect the current budget woes.

Ultimately, the House Education Committee passed on favorably a bill limiting low-enrollment weighting?additional funding because a school is small?to those districts with under 200 square miles if they also have less than 200 students.

Those six school districts will receive the funding at the level schools with 200 receive the funding.

Incidentally, that bill also will permit three or more districts to consolidate into two districts instead of only one, if it more appropriately suits them.

I have received about 200 more surveys, so I still don?t have final results. Perhaps next week.

This is a good problem to have! I feared getting only a couple hundred back, and not really getting your thoughts on the various issues. It is to your credit that you are engaged in the process and willing to respond. Thank you very much! It?s very helpful.

One topic that came up at both legislative coffees Feb. 27 relates to TransCanada, the parent company of Keystone Pipeline. Keystone is now moving pipe into the county, and construction will commence soon.

The company is in line to receive a tax credit as well as a 10-year property-tax exemption for the pipeline, both based on a law passed in 2006 with Keystone in mind. Because the tax exemption caught county commissioners of Marion and other counties by surprise, this topic seems to be of great concern throughout the area.

I believe the property tax exemption has not yet been granted; I think the pipeline has received conditional approval of the tax credit, depending on the company meeting certain criteria in the future.

At the gatherings, Sen. Jim Barnett passed out information received from TransCanada about the potential economic impact for each of the counties involved. I await further information promised to us from Keystone/Trans Canada on the pipeline?s impact.

We expect to be debating various tax exemptions on the floor of the House this week. I don?t expect anything will come of it until a package is put together by the Tax Committee or our leadership in the House.

I haven?t heard much support for repealing exemptions on churches, although the Tax Committee left that in the bill for us to consider.

You may e-mail me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861 or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call me at 620-382-2133 or 785-296-7699.

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