Today is a new beginning for public school districts in Kansas and Missouri. July 1 marks the beginning of the fiscal year. And in Missouri, the state requires school boards to approve preliminary budgets by the end of June.
This is no easy task, especially since the financial crisis has caused a steep decline in revenues from all sources: local, state and federal.
In addition to having to make do with less, district administrators must formulate budgets without knowing exactly how much revenue they will receive. They must estimate how much property tax the county will be able to collect. They must guess how much of the promised (but never entirely delivered) revenue they will receive from the state’s school funding formula. And this year there is the looming possibility of sequestration of federal funds.
“Sequestration” is a fancy way of describing budget cuts scheduled to take effect, because last fall the Supercommittee didn’t do its job. Supercommittee members were supposed to find strategic ways for the federal government to reduce its budget. However, instead of identifying specific cost-saving measures, the decision was simply to reduce all expenditures — including those for education — by 8 percent. If the U.S. Congress doesn’t gather the collective will to protect education funding this fall, these cuts will kick in as soon as we ring in the New Year in 2013.
According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, Kansas may lose at least $8.6 million in education funding when these cuts kick in, affecting more than 8,000 students and causing at least 170 job losses. And Missouri may lose at least $17.3 million, affecting more than 15,000 students and causing at least 277 job losses.
These cuts would only add to the financial instability of local districts struggling to educate a steadily increasing number of students. At least two districts — Excelsior Springs and Raytown — propose to operate deficit budgets during the 2012-2013 school year. Other districts estimate that expenses will outstrip revenues, causing them to draw down reserve funds.
All in all, it should be a challenging fiscal year for local public schools. And — difficult as jobs are these days to come by — I’m not sure many will covet the jobs of administrators faced with finding budget cuts for their school board members to approve.
Happy New (Fiscal) Year, everyone?
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