Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer
The board held a special meeting to review the latest information regarding state education funding and to discuss a mail-in ballot to increase the percentage level of the Local Option Budget (LOB).
Lew Faust, business services director, outlined the proposed state education funding bills and the potential impacts on funding for USD 383. The Legislature is proposing to allocate funds to districts through so-called “block grants,” which would include all state funding a district would receive. Other changes include removing many of the restrictions that limited districts’ abilities to transfer funds between various designated funds, allowing capital outlay funds to be used for operating expenses (such as paying utility bills), and allowing districts to adopt the LOB percent they were planning to adopt for 2015-16, but then restricting districts from being able to increase their LOB percent further for the next two years. USD 383 will experience approximately a 28% decrease in LOB state aid and will lose approximately $519,000. Of the additional 9% in state funding being targeted for school districts, 79% of it is designated for KPERS, which districts can’t use for operating expenses. USD 383 will also be experiencing a $1 million increase in health insurance coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act. With the health insurance increase and the reductions in state funding, USD 383 will need to decrease its budget by approximately $1.8 million.
The board also discussed a mail-in ballot to increase the LOB. The LOB has a maximum of 30%, but districts may increase it to 33% if approved by voters with a mail-in ballot. A first reading of a resolution for the ballot item was discussed during the March 4th meeting, but board members wanted to find out what the state’s proposed education funding plans were before taking final action with the second reading. The board approved the resolution for a mail-in ballot to increase the LOB authority on second reading.