The Courier-Journal just posted an article about school taxes titled “As JCPS again ponders tax increase, here’s what to know about school funding in Kentucky” that needs “the rest of the story.”
The article bemoans the fact that the state’s SEEK (Seeking Excellence in Education) funding has not kept pace with inflation, saying local school districts have had to pick up the slack.
But, if the Kentucky Department of Education’s Revenue and Expenditures reports are to be believed, the table below shows the full picture when all of the state’s investment in education gets added up.
As you can see, when everything the state is paying for, including things like teacher health care and retirement costs, get tallied up, the state has posted a far larger increase in its spending than the local districts have provided.
And, taxpayers have to fund all of this, not just a part of it that goes to SEEK.
State legislators are well aware of this problem. They ultimately serve at the pleasure of the taxpayers, and if taxes get raised too high, those legislators can find themselves out of a job in Frankfort. Even worse, if legislators get the tax code really wrong, it can send the state’s economy into a tailspin.
This isn’t to say that the current priorities for how the state spends its dollars are actually on track. But, it’s hard to know for sure given the current uncertainty about ALL education financial accounting the taxpayer gets to see. One issue: schools and districts are not consistently coding their financial information into the state’s MUNIS accounting system.
One example of this we’ve discussed before regards the Pike County School District showing an “Instruction” expenditure for the School Bus Garage. It turns out that Pike County is using the reserved MUNIS code for school bus maintenance type activities for something else involving direct student education. But, who knows what that is, since the data is coded incorrectly – and no one seems interested in fixing it?
So, absent something proved more reliable, we have to at least consider the Revenue and Expenditures reports as they at least are assembled from audited data. Regarding accuracy of other “stuff” like budgets that are used for these sorts of discussions – Who knows?
The Revenue and Expenditures Report for 2017-18 is online here.
The Receipts and Expenditures Report for 2007-8, as these reports were formerly titled, is online here.