Local schools may feel pain of state, federal cuts
By RACHAEL GRAY
With more state and federal budget cuts possibly on the horizon, local schools may take further hits.
Those hits could come even with keeping school funding the same as it was as costs continue to rise.
The Kansas Senate approved a budget last week that would increase state aid by $14 per pupil in 2014, raising it to $3,852. That increase is made possible by another part of the bill that calls for moving the cost of providing school transportation services — $96.6 million — to the Department of Transportation. The House plan keeps base aid at $3,838 per student.
Locally, USD 457 Board of Education candidates weighed in on what they would do should the district see further costs and cuts.
Jean Clifford, candidate and current board president, has served on the BOE since 2009.
She said she would be in favor of funding adjustment instead of raising the local option budget — local taxes.
"I believe that raising property taxes should be a last resort in the event additional funding is needed by our district to meet state and federal mandates. Our district is required to comply with those mandates even though they may be only partially funded. As a result, the district must adjust funding in other areas to ensure we meet those requirements," she said.
Clifford recognizes the cuts the district has already made.
"Due to the budget cuts to education in the past few years, our district has made many cuts to all areas of our budget and we currently have a very lean budget. However, I believe that prior to raising the local option budget, the district needs to again seek to ensure that it has made every funding adjustment possible.
Gloria Hopkins, former board president, has served a four-year term. She agreed the district's budget currently is very lean.
Hopkins favors a combination of more cuts and increasing taxes as little as possible.
"We are already running so lean that further cuts will directly impact student achievement," she said.
Lara Bors, was appointed to the board in June 2011, and is running for re-election.
Bors said as a small business owner, she would never favor raising property taxes.
"The budget of the school district is currently operating well below the 100% levels that we have had in years past.¬ As I stated in my previous campaign, I intend to look everywhere — from the superintendent's office to the cafeteria — to ensure that the district is running as streamlined as possible," she said.
Antonio Espino, who is running against the incumbents, said he has a different approach to the budget woes.
"I plan to get monies from the parents in the form of the kids — the more kids you have in the schools, the more you contribute," he said.
He also said he would consider having schools sell goods.
"I'd be asking if that's something they are willing to do. They could get good prices on goods from corporations who are willing to help out the school," he said.
At the last resort, Espino said he would favor raising taxes.
"I don't believe in cutting the budget since it's already well cut," he said.
Profiles of the candidates, along with answers each provided to five questions posed by The Telegram, will appear in Wednesday's edition.