Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Local District May Owe State ; Cuts: $1.14 Million Slashed from Auburn-Washburn

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Local District May Owe State ; Cuts: $1.14 Million Slashed from Auburn-Washburn

Article excerpt

Cuts to this year's education spending, passed by the Legislature less than four months before the end of the fiscal year, appear to mean some school districts should return money to the state.

However, a spokesperson for House Speaker Ray Merrick on Friday indicated lawmakers don't want that to happen.

If some school districts are required to return funds, this likely will include Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437, which lost about $1.14 million for this fiscal year under the legislation signed by Gov. Sam Brownback last week. This loss includes state aid for maintenance that the district spent earlier this year.

USD 437 superintendent Brenda Dietrich described that as "ridiculous."

"We've already spent the money," Dietrich said. "The projects are completed."

Because USD 437 administrators are concerned the district will need to repay about $260,000 that it already used for those projects, they have deferred the rest of this year's maintenance projects until next fiscal year to help ensure enough cash on hand. This includes delaying purchases of three buses, technology infrastructure work and the paving of a parent parking lot at Farley Elementary, among other projects.

The legislation also cut the district's maintenance funds for the next two years, and Dietrich said USD 437 would need to reprioritize its projects as a result. USD 437 administrators expect the Farley parking lot project will need to wait until June 2016.

In an email Friday, Merrick's spokeswoman, Rachel Whitten, said legislative leadership is "committed to ensuring that the block grant bill is enacted to provide certainty and clarity for schools, including in this scenario. The plan is to continue to work with the Department of Education to make sure that happens."

Whitten indicated lawmakers didn't intend for school districts to pay back state aid.

"During the development of the block grant bill, legislators had assurances from the Department of Education that the legislation would not require school districts to send money back," she wrote, "and we trust that the KSDE will keep their word. …

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