Some local educators wary of Brownback’s finance formula plan
by Dennis Sharkey
A plan to overhaul the state’s education finance formula has some local educators wondering if it will benefit rural students.
At a meeting of Keystone Board members last month the topic of Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan was a topic. Early analysis of the plan has some concerned like Keystone Director Dr. Tim Marshall.
Marshall compared the plan to numbers he is familiar with. He is only a year removed from the position of Superintendent for Jefferson County North USD 339. JCN is in the bottom 10 districts in the state in property valuation.
If the governor’s plan goes into place, Marshall said it could mean between $250,000 and $350,000 more revenue for the county’s six districts.
However, critics like Marshall argue that those levels are far below what local schools were being funded just a few years ago before education groups began suing the state.
“Basically Mr. Brownback is under the impression that if he stabilizes the funding formula it will eliminate lawsuits,” Marshall said. “My personal feeling is that the plan does less to equalize the tax burden.”
Marshall said some larger districts like Atchison or Blue Valley would see funding levels stay flat.
A main component of the plan would remove the cap that local districts are allowed for their local option budgets and that’s where Marshall has an issue.
“They just want to be able to levy more for their schools,” Marshall said about districts in Johnson County. “That’s where it really gets unfair. They can raise a whale of a lot of money.”
Marshall said if JCN raises the levy one mill it would raise about $14,000 compared to the millions that could be raised in some larger districts.
Furthermore, Marshall believes the plan will make it harder for rural districts to raise capital for projects. At $14,000 a mill it would take a considerable amount of mills or time to pay off a large bond and rates will double for the district.
“People won’t stand for that,” Marshall said.
Marshall told Keystone board members that Brownback will have a hard time getting the plan passed through the Legislature and that there are other issues with funding that need to be addressed first.
The final plan when approved would not become effective until the 2013-14 school year.
The following points, which are the latest from the state Department of Education, outline what some of the changes would be:
- School districts would receive $4,492 for each regularly enrolled student (Kindergarten at 1.0 and virtual students at .75).
- The plan includes a hold harmless provision equal to the general state aid, supplemental general state aid (LOB), general fund local effort, and supplemental general fund (LOB) local effort.
- Hold harmless amount will change yearly subject to enrollment increasing/decreasing.
- The plan includes a 20-mill statewide levy based upon the general fund valuation that is distributed on an equalization formula as defined in Column 8 of the Column Explanation.
- The increase under this plan is limited to 6 percent assuming that the local mill rate remains the same as the 2012-13 school year.
- The local effort must equal the LOB property tax rate in the prior school year to receive 100 percent of hold harmless.
- A school board may increase their local property tax in order to raise their budget above the formula amount, subject to protest petition.
- The following weightings have been eliminated: enrollment, bilingual education, vocational education, K-12 at-risk, high-density at-risk non-proficient students, new facilities, transportation, ancillary facilities, declining enrollment, and cost of living.
- The special education state aid distribution will not change.
- A new plan for vocational education is under development.
- The final details on bond and interest state aid for future bond issues has not been determined. The Governor wants to focus state resources on classrooms.
- The combining of general fund budgets for consolidated school districts will remain in effect. The process for adjusting budgets at the end of the time period has not been finalized.
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