District prepares to cut $1.8 million from budget

Caitlin Holland, Editor-in-chief

The Blue Valley Board of Education anticipates further budget cuts for the 2011-2012 school year after Governor Sam Brownback proposed a $75 reduction in the Base State Aid Per Pupil in his State of the State address.

The district would lose $1.8 million dollars of funding under this proposition.

The BSAPP is the amount of money the state designates to each student in Kansas for his or her education.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Slagle said he expects to see Brownback’s $75 reduction passed in the legislature this spring.

“Anytime the governor speaks in the State of the State address, it basically sets a suggested course of action for the state,” he said. “It served as a starting point for discussion. We’re listening and watching this pretty closely.”

Slagle said proactive initiatives like implementing a hiring freeze and restricting overtime for hourly employees were taken following the address.

“We’re trying to get a read on what they may do for next year,” he said. “They really haven’t taken up budget considerations for next year yet — they’re still working on the budget for this year. There’s still a lot of work left to be done.”

The district plans open forums and discussions with community patrons in the spring after the state’s official state budget is announced. At that point, Slagle said, the Board of Education will determine the budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

“We really start running into logistical problems from our end as far as time goes if it gets into May,” he said. “We’re hoping a budget will be finalized and have the dust starting to settle in to the month of May.”

The Blue Valley Education Foundation is an organization independent of the school district that provides grants to fund activities related to school curriculum. BVEF receives donations from teachers in the district, parents and community patrons.

The foundation, restricted by state law from assisting the district operationally, instead focuses on providing extra supplies, equipment and resources to teachers upon request. Foundation Executive Director Anne Blessing said if the $75 reduction passes, the foundation’s job will become more critical.

“We’re not sure what our role is going to be,” she said. “We may come full circle. The foundation has not funded essential programs that our school district has had to cut because of funding cuts, but we don’t know what is going to happen.”

Blessing said BVEF looks to work closely with the school district and its strategic five-year plan. The plan, presented in November 2010, outlines the district’s goals for future years. It details areas of emphasis such as technology improvement, personal responsibility and more AP and college-level courses.

Blessing meets with a technology representative and school board member prior to introducing a grant to other BVEF members. The request must fall in line with the district’s technology requirements and relate back to the curriculum.

“I think one of my plans as the new executive director of the foundation is to align the foundation more closely with the school district so that we are pursuing the same goals, and try to be more supportive of the programs that the school district is trying to fund,” Blessing said.

Items in the strategic plan represent the district’s critical areas of focus, Slagle said. These areas will be considered last if cuts are necessary.

“The five-year strategic plan is our road map for the future,” he said. “Things that are associated with that plan would likely achieve a higher priority than things not associated with that plan. It forces us to prioritize and allocate if we have to when we have scarce budget.”

Slagle said while BVEF provides assistance to teachers’ innovative classroom plans, a void remains in the operational budget.

Currently, Johnson County residents pay the highest possible property taxes for the local option. He said an increase in the local option cap would be an ideal way to preserve the district’s financial security.

“It would be of tremendous benefit,” he said. “It would allow for an ongoing funding stream that we could plan for the future and get some things started or restarted in our district based on our needs and desires. That would be a huge help for us.”

The CAPS program will experience budget cuts in the same way the five Blue Valley high schools will, CAPS Executive Director Donna Deeds said.

Each year, Deeds said she allocates money the district provides to each of the CAPS classes after teachers submit their ideal budget plan.

“I have the actual instructors do an estimate of the amount they think they might need for supplies,” she said. “Then, depending upon if we have enough funds, I have to work with them to cut what they maybe could get rid of.”

At the departmental level, BV Family and Consumer Science teacher Kendra Smith said she anticipates a proposition to cut middle school FACS classes later this spring. This proposition was on the list of cuts for the 2010-2011 school year, but it did not pass.

“If they drop middle school classes, students would not be as interested in high school FACS,” she said. “There’s always a chance that they could eventually even cut high school FACS.”

Smith said the Carl Perkins Grant, distributed to FACS programs throughout the country, provides substantial funding to her classes. She said the funding this grant offers will likely decrease in the future.

Executive Director for Career and Technology Education, Linda Affholder, said a $102.9 million-dollar reduction to the Carl Perkins Grant passed in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

“The one thing about FACS classes is that the state will pay us money for students to take our classes — that’s part of the grant money,” Smith said. “The school gets money when students take our classes as sophomores, juniors and seniors. In that way, we are bringing money into the district so it would be silly to try and cut our programs.”

Smith also said funding challenges arose when food prices increased earlier this year. She said the department did not anticipate this rise when planning how much students will pay for supplies next year.

In the 2011-2012 school year, students in Foods classes will pay between $22-25 for materials.

“That is causing a big ditch in my budget because we planned on those food prices staying basically the same,” she said. “We didn’t charge any more this semester for students taking Foods, and we didn’t even up the prices for next year. We’re probably going to have to cut back the number of labs we do because of that.”

Despite concerns about funding at all levels, however, Foundation Director Blessing said she believes the district will manage the uncertain budget situation well — due, in part, to community support.

“As our enrollment increases we have more parents who can theoretically support the foundation and more businesses coming in to south Johnson County that can support the foundation,” she said. “I think, as the school district grows, so does our opportunity to raise funds.”