Government & Politics

Across-the-board cut would take $219 million from Kansas schools, memo says

An across-the-board budget cut would mean a loss of more than $11 million for the Kansas City, Kan., school district.
An across-the-board budget cut would mean a loss of more than $11 million for the Kansas City, Kan., school district.

Across-the-board cuts to balance this year’s budget would take roughly $219 million from Kansas schools, according to a state memo.

Lawmakers said Monday that the number was an exercise to see what the option would look like as they work to fix a budget gap of more than $340 million this year. Some lawmakers said the move was unlikely but they have to consider all possibilities.

“We’re trying to find a way to balance our books,” said House Speaker Ron Ryckman of Olathe. “Being consistent, looking at all options.”

School districts in Johnson and Wyandotte counties would lose more than a combined $40 million under such a move.

Blue Valley would be hit with a $7.8 million cut, Olathe would face a loss of $10.9 million and Shawnee Mission schools would see a cut of $10.6 million.

But the Kansas City, Kan., school district would face the largest cut locally: more than $11 million.

“A cut like that would have devastating impacts on schools,” said David Smith, spokesman for the Kansas City, Kan., school district. “It’s hard for me to think that anyone would intentionally propose something that would be that devastating to public education. We’re in desperate financial times. The state budget is out of balance.”

Kansas colleges would also face decreases.

The University of Kansas would be hit with a $9 million cut, according to the memo. The University of Kansas Medical Center would suffer a cutback of roughly $7.4 million.

Kansas State University would also see a drop-off of roughly $11 million.

The cuts would also take $25.3 million from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and $13.2 million from the Kansas Board of Regents.

Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed sweeping more than $360 million from a long-term investment fund to bridge the 2017 budget gap.

His administration has championed that plan to lawmakers because it avoids deep budget cuts this year.

Lawmakers on the House budget committee said last week that using that money to get through this fiscal year may be the best of the bad options in front of them.

Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Fairway Republican, said seeing the possibility of across the board cuts was a reality check.

“Those are going to be some really bad choices,” Rooker said of how the state chooses to mend the 2017 budget. “But we’ve got to know how bad, in order to decide the least harmful option.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw