••• Education •••

School Debt Sets New Record at $5.56 Billion

Kansas school bond debt set another record for the 2015-16 school year at $5.56 billion spread across 183 districts.  Data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows school districts loaded up on a lot of new debt since 2005:

  • $5.2 billion in new bond debt was issued by 149 districts.
  • Debt Service payments totaled $4.9 billion.
  • Bonded indebtedness increased $2.4 billion or 77%.
  • Debt Service payments jumped 98%, from $286 million in 2005 to $567 million in 2016.

District listings for total and per-pupil indebtedness, new debt issued by year and total debt service payments since 2005 are available on KansasOpenGov.org.  Refinanced and re-issued debt is not counted in the debt-issued totals.

Fifteen school districts issued more than $100 million in new bonded indebtedness since 2005.  USD 233 Olathe tops the list at $516.8 million, with Wichita and Blue Valley rounding out the quarter-billion-dollar club.   Much of the new debt is subsidized by citizens outside the issuing district, which has a direct impact on state aid available for educating students.  Twelve of the top 15 debt issuers are subsidized by other Kansans.  State aid for school debt ballooned from $52 million in 2005 to $163 million last year. To put that in perspective, had Bond & Interest aid remained steady over that period, $530 million more could have been available to fund Instruction.

The Division of Budget estimates that Bond & Interest aid will be $181 million in FY 2017, which means another $129 million could have been available for Instruction this had districts not taken on so much debt.

Kansas had the 10th-highest debt-per-pupil in the nation based on the most current (2014) Census data last year.