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Keystone may return money to schools if House plan goes through

by Dennis Sharkey

State leaders are looking for ways to fill budget gaps and education funding is again a target.

Keystone Director Dr. Tim Marshall told board members last week that a proposal in the Kansas House would take about $26 million that is owed to KPERS, the state’s employee retirement fund, and give it to special education to help fill a $60 million funding gap.

The federal government will start penalizing the state next year if the money is not spent on special education.

Keystone Learning Services In order to pay back the $26 million the state would reduce general base state aid to school districts by an additional $40 per pupil. Already Gov. Sam Brownback has asked for a $75 per pupil reduction for this school year and an additional $157 per pupil next year.

“The state has at least recognized that it needed to happen,” Marshall said. “The method I think is unconventional.”

Marshall said officials at the State Department of Education have already informed cooperatives such as Keystone that the monies should be funneled back to the districts. Marshall, who is still a part-time administrator for Jefferson County North USD 339, said he agrees and the payments should not be viewed as new revenue.

“We need to separate the two issues and not act like that’s new money because it is not,” Marshall said. “It’s taking it away from general education. I really truly believe that is not our money to spend.”

Last month the board began discussing how much cash carry-over the cooperative should carry from one budget year to another.

Marshall told board members last month that he would present three different scenarios but will push for a 35 percent of the budget carry-over. He believes that Keystone needs the carryover to avoid asking districts for early or increased assessments if state payments are late next year.

If Keystone had a 30 percent carry-over it would leave nearly $2 million in carry-over for a $6.67 million budget and would allow Keystone to return $195,000 back to the districts. A 25 percent carry-over would leave balances at $1.6 million and about $520,000 could be returned to the districts. A 20 percent carry-over balance would be about $1.3 million and $845,000 could be returned to the districts.

Marshall said his goal is 35 percent but thinks superintendents will come up to about 28 percent.

Collaboration efforts have also begun between Keystone and other cooperatives.

“Collaboration is going to be the key to surviving,” Marshall said.

In other actions:

A 14-page contract was presented to Keystone board members for a consolidation move to the Ozawkie school building. No action was taken by the Keystone board because districts had not yet had a chance to review the agreement.

Marshall urged the board to take time to review the agreement but not wait too long because both entities are left hanging in limbo. In addition notification has to be given to the city of Lecompton.

The plan is to move into the building in mid June.

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Posted by on Mar 22 2011. Filed under County News, Keystone Learning Services, Schools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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