The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 10, 2001 · Page 1
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 1

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, April 10, 2001
Page 1
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Return of the draft PAGE D1 S the TUESDAY APRIL 10, 2001 SALINA, KANSAS Salina Journal Serving Kansas since 1871 50 cents The nose knows PAGE CI • SCHOOL FINANCE Spendthrift districts draw miser's eye Holders of state purse strings want better accountability By CAROL CRUPPER Harris News Seruice TOPEKA — Questionable spending practices by Kansas schools, the latest being some $7,000 spent in cell phone charges last year by members of the Wichita School Board, are darkening the clouds forming over efforts to better fund education. Sen. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, said the publicity about spending doesn't negate the need for better teacher pay and additional support for special education. "It just fuels the fire to those folks that want more accountability," she said. The latest spending question was raised over the weekend when the Wichita Eagle reported Wichita School Board members rang up nearly $7,000 in cell phone charges last year, many for personal calls. That story comes on the heels of reports Haysville's entire school board spent more than $17,000 to attend a conference in San Diego, and its superintendent made monthly charges as high as $16,000 on a district credit card. Sen. Christine Downey, D- Newton, sees the phone story as the latest opportunity to stir an undercurrent of opposition to public education. "It's terribly frustrating," she said Monday Even some who want to do more for education think schools should operate more like a business. As the Senate Education Committee tried to pick up the pieces of its proposed funding EMLER LEE plan last Thursday, mention of spending in the Haysville district sparked the accountability anthem. During the discussion. Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, expressed dismay that a district that had lost 30 students, the Smoky Valley School District at Lindsborg, was creating a new position: curriculum director. "It's inefficient; it's not businesslike," Emler said. He said schools must get serious about cutting costs. "They need to take a hard look at overhead, particularly in the administrative area," he said. On Monday, Glenn Suppes, superintendent of Smoky Valley, defended the addition of a curriculum director, saying student test scores demonstrated a need for better curriculum direction. To create the position, he said, the district would consider cut­ ting athletic bus routes, support and coaching positions — anything that didn't cut into student learning. "There's not a lot of fluff out there," Suppes said. As legislators make final budget decisions, Sen. Janis Lee said she will push to keep spending anecdotes in perspective. "Too often in this building we try to set policy on one or two incidents," she said. Negative news stories combined with a bleak revenue outlook make a sale for education even harder, Lee said. "It's going to be an incredible struggle." YMCA hopes new water attraction makes a splash Andy England (lett), project manager tor sauna Bunding systems, lAfi-fki rrt^rnhk^KO and Phil Gurles, executive director of the Salina Family YMCA, hope WIUl pULUllLlctl IllUllliJOlO to open the Y's new family pool by April 22. By DAVID CLOUSTON The Salina Journal A bit more than a week's worth of odds and ends and cleaning remain before the Salina Family YMCA begins training lifeguards to operate its new family swimming pool, which is scheduled to open to members April 22. Young swimmers at the YMCA's existing pool have been gazing with interest through windows at the new, adjacent pool as the work nears completion. The new pool features a circular tube slide, water cannons, fountains, a zero-depth entry area and an area for water aerobics. The new family pool, which at 3,500 square feet is about the same size as the existing pool, is designed to appeal to young children and teens and free up demand on the existing facility for lap swimmers and swim teams. The YMCA, 570 YMCA Drive, had a dedication ceremony Sunday for the new pool. Donors to the project were recognized, including Darwin and Delma Sampson, for whom the pool is named. See POOL, Page A6 Photos by TOM DORSEY / The Salina Journal The Salina Family YMCA's new family pool features a tube water slide, spraying fountains and other gizmos. • EDUCATION LEGISLATION All school districts are not equal House speaker says the goal should be finding appropriateness and suitability in education bill T DOWNED SPY PLANE U.S., China deadlocked By The Associated Press HAIKOU, China — Amid signs an impasse over a U.S. spy plane could settle into a lengthy routine, China let U.S. diplomats visit the detained crew for a fourth time Monday in a meeting free of bureaucratic hurdles. A U.S. official said the air crew was in "excellent health and their spirits are extremely high." But there was no indication Beijing was wavering in its demand for a formal apology from Washington in a standoff over the plane's in-flight collision with a Chinese fighter jet. Chinese President Jiang Zemin is in Argentina on a 12-day regional tour, and it was unclear whether his absence was delaying deliberations on a settlement. In Buenos Aires, Jiang's spokesman Zhu Bangzao said Monday that U.S. statements on the spy plane collision are "unacceptable" and again demanded a full apology from the Bush administration. Jiang is due in Beijing next week. T KANSAS ENERGY Brownouts? Not in Kansas for at least four years By CARL MANNING The Associated Press TOPEKA — As thousands of Kansans wonder about paying off winter heating bills, there comes another concern: Will there be blackouts or brownouts this summer when electricity use rises with the temperatures? Not very likely, say Kansas regulators and the state's largest electrical utility—unlike California and other states wrestling with providing enough power to the people. "Right now, it looks like Kansas utilities, based on forecasted loads and generating capacities, are adequate until the summer for 2005," said Larry HoUoway, Kansas Corporation Commission's chief of energy operations. In Kansas, winter for most people mean high heating bills, mainly natural gas. In the sum- "On paper, we look better this summer and the next two summers than we did last summer." Larry Holloway chief of energy operations, Kansas Corporation Commission mer, it's the extra electricity to power air conditioners that causes the power bills to soar. How hot it will get this summer will be the key factor in how much electricity is used and how high the bUls wiU be. Last summer produced record-high temperatures in parts of the state. "If we have a hot summer, we'll be using more, and the bUls will be going up. But the only way for major utilities to increase rates is to come here and ask for a rate change," said Susan Cunningham, KCC acting general counsel. Kansas has 157 electrical utilities serving 1,3 million residential and commercial customers. Ten are regulated by the KCC and serve about 1 million customers. The remainder are smaller utilities regulated at the local level. "On paper, we look better this summer and the next two summers than we did last summer," Holloway said. He said that in recent years, Kansas utilities have added 800 megawatts of generating capacity on top of the 10,000 megawatts already available. By DAVID CLOUSTON The Saiina Journal GLASSCOCK Kansas lawmakers, through their actions on the state budget, are doing to rural schools indirectly what the schools themselves are loathe to do — closing schools and consolidating administrations, Kansas House Speaker Kent Glasscock said. The only other choice rural areas have is to increase local investment — that is, raise taxes. To many lawmakers, including Glasscock, pouring more state money into the school finance formula is not the solution. And that's why the state needs a better way of allocating tax dollars to education, Glasscock, R-Manhattan, said Monday during a visit to Salina. Glassock, widely expected to be a Republican candidate for governor in 2002, was on a swing through the state while thoiLegislature is in recess. Glasscock proposes a formula that doesn't legislatively mandate "equality" among districts — a definition as fleeting as rain — but focuses instead on "appropriateness and suitability" in public education programs. In Glasscock's view, if a wealthy eastern Kansas school district wants to offer four years of conversational Chinese to its public high school students, it should be able to tax itself to pay for it. But there should be a way to redesign the funding formvila to create an educational base for all schools. "The real question is, can we devise a formula that allows the state to move forward and to underpin educational opportunities across the state?" Glasscock said. "We have to recognize that Johnson County is the economic golden goose, and we can't strangle it," he said, "But we have to have the opportunity for the rest of the state to survive and prosper. "We're not going to have — ever — a formula that's equal," he said. "The Constitution doesn't demand equality It demands appropriateness and suitability Those are different concepts." The House Friday narrowly approved a bill giving school districts greater leeway to raise local property taxes to supplement state aid. The bill would allow more than 20 districts at the 25 percent limit to raise the local-option budget to a maximum of 30 percent, subject to voter approval. Meanwhile, the Senate Thursday approved a compromise $9.11 billion state spending bill that includes $4.66 billion from the state's general fund. Spending would increase under the bill by $230 million, or 5.2 percent. But without increasing taxes or raiding other funds, the state would only be able to increase its spending by $45 million, or only 1 percent. Glasscock said he thinks chances of a tax increase passing this session are slim, and on education he supports holding an interim committee study after the session ends to tackle yet again the thorny question of the school finance formula. "My hope is public education will not get killed this session, even if we don't put more revenue in," he said. • Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 823-6464, Ext. 131, or by e-mail at WEATHER High: 75 Low: 58 Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of rain. PAGE A4 Oil pipeline giant Koch Industries agrees to pay $20 million in exchange for the federal government dropping environmental charges. PAGE B1 An agreement between the city and a yard-waste processing business has been carved out over a woodchip controversy INSIDE Classified / C2 Comics / B4 Crossword / B4 Deaths / B3 Great Plains / 81 Health / CI Money / A4 Sports / D1 Weather / 04 Viewpoints / AS

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