To The Sun:

Because the Kansas Legislature is in session, I would like to make a few observations on state funding of Kansas schools.

In 1992 the Kansas base state aid per pupil was $3,600. Adjusted for inflation, that would amount to $6,001 in 2013. The 2013 BSAPP was $3,838, or just $2,302 in 1992 dollars. As funding has dropped, education costs have gone up because of federally mandated special education costs and all-day kindergarten.  In the 2008-2009 school year, the BSAPP was $4,400, or 15 percent higher than 2013.  State law provides for a BSAPP of $4,492 for 2009-2010 and each school year thereafter.  The Legislature has ignored its own commitments to local school districts.  The governor’s proposal for the next fiscal year would raise the BSAPP by $14, or .36 percent. Inflation for 2013 was 1.47 percent, which would require an increase of $56 to stay even.

At the same time schools are being starved for funds, the governor and the Legislature enacted tax law changes in 2012 and 2013 that will reduce state revenue by $703 and $886 million over the next two years, respectively, with projected deficits of $108 million and $204 million.  Included in these tax changes were provisions that I find it hard to believe the majority of voting Kansans are aware of.  Sole proprietors, partners, LLC members, and S corporation stockholders are now exempt from Kansas income tax on their earnings.  As a former member of an LLC and S corporation this means that I would not have to pay tax on my earnings, but my employees would still have to pay tax on their W-2 wages.  The argument for this approach is that these business owners are the ones who create jobs, and income tax exemption is an encouragement for them to do so.

In my nearly 40-year career as a certified public accountant, I never had a client tell me he was not going to hire an employee he needed because he would have to pay Kansas income tax on the additional profit he made from that employee.  However, I often had clients tell me they were unable to find employees with the skills they needed.  

So what outcomes can we expect from this continued underfunding of our schools? Obviously we will have higher local property taxes, fewer teachers, larger class sizes, fewer academic choices and deteriorating facilities.  These changes will be more pronounced in the poorer districts, which include nearly all of those in Southeast Kansas.   

I have been a lifelong Republican, because I used to believe it was the party of fiscal responsibility.  I believe, however, that fiscal responsibility includes paying your debts and meeting your obligations.  When cutting taxes becomes the holy grail of a political party at the cost of providing basic governmental services, I believe that party has lost its way.  I would strongly urge voters to contact their local senator and representative and urge them to repeal these inequitable tax law changes and to fund Kansas schools in accordance with their previous commitments.  These legislators’ e-mail addresses and phone numbers are published in this newspaper on a weekly basis. — VINCENT T. MILLER, CPA, Parsons

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