Rep. Gonzalez pays Jeff West school board a visit
by Clarke Davis
Rep. Ramon Gonzalez Jr., R-Perry, addressed the Jefferson West school board Monday, but shed little light on school finance.
“We’re about two weeks out from seeing what the governor will propose,” Gonzalez said.
The lawmaker said he does not expect any further cutbacks to education, but does believe there will be some reallocation of the money.
Specifically one thing that will be targeted is state support of buildings and facilities.
“I think the money will be targeted closer to the classroom,” he said, indicating local districts that pass bond issues will more than likely not see any state support for buildings, which has been supported at about the rate of 40 percent.
Gonzalez said the extra revenue that appears to be filling the state coffers will probably be used to pay down debt now costing the state about $600 million a year. It would also improve the state’s bond rating, he said.
Talk of allowing more ad valorem taxes to be raised locally or implementing a sales tax was objected to by members of the local board.
Board President Jeff Van Petten noted the extreme disparity in raising a mill in Jefferson County or implementing a sales tax in comparison to a large urban area in Shawnee, Johnson, and Sedgwick counties.
Superintendent Pat Happer expressed how far behind funding local education has fallen and not just the past two or three years, but in the past decade. He said in 1997 Jefferson West had no local option budget, while today that levy exceeds 24 mills or more than the state levy of 20 mills.
Although Jefferson County districts have fewer teachers, larger classes, and greater tax levies, Gonzalez does not think there is a movement on the state level to force consolidation.
“That is a local issue . . . that’s a choice you guys will have to make,” he said. “I think consolidation is a last resort, but there should probably be a consolidation of services.”
He suggested three school districts could contract the grass to be mowed in the summer for example, rather than having three contracts for the same service.
Gonzalez talked about the KPERS retirement fund and including a 401K system for new hires to help save the system beyond 2029. A flat tax is also being talked about and doing away with a number of exemptions. Water rights and issues surrounding water will be a big topic, he noted.
“I need your input,” he said. “I plan to have a web site up and running and people will be able to follow me on Facebook and send me tweets.”
Gonzalez was a freshmen during the last session having been selected by the GOP officials in the 47th District to replace Lee Tafanelli, who was appointed Adjutant General by Gov. Brownback.
All board members were present with Frank Sayles checking in by conference phone.
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