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Headlines for Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kansas Delays June Payment to Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will be paying schools a week late after withholding the final payment of fiscal year 2016 to keep its budget out of the red. The Wichita Eagle reports school districts will receive a total of nearly $260 million in state aid July 7 and mark it as a June 30 payment. The state has withheld similar payments over the past decade and was planning to do so again this year. But deputy education commissioner Dale Dennis says the amount was $75 million higher than it would have been without the current shortfalls.  The state was expected to miss June revenue estimates by more than $30 million, on top of an existing $45 million budget gap.


June Tax Receipts Come in $34.5 Million Below Expectations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas tax revenue receipts have come up $34.5 million short for June, pushing the fiscal year-ending shortfall to $76.2 million. The state Department of Revenue said yesterday (FRI) that receipts for corporate income taxes missed estimates by $20.3 million, or 25 percent. The department says those taxes were not part of the 2012 income tax reductions championed by Governor Sam Brownback. The revenue gap is forcing the state to make adjustments previously outlined by budget director Shawn Sullivan to balance the fiscal year 2016 budget. The state is withholding $75 million from the June payment to schools and will distribute that on July 7. Also, a total of $23.6 million will come from the Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections and unspent funds from the Kansas State Department of Education.


Some Rural Kansas Schools Could See Swings in Property Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A handful of small, rural Kansas school districts face spikes in local property taxes or spending cuts because they're losing state aid under a new education funding law. But a few other rural districts could see tax levies decrease significantly. Dozens of districts of all sizes will see modest decreases because the state will give them additional aid for the 2016-17 school year. The new law that took effect yesterday (FRI) focuses on smoothing out the taxes imposed by school districts. It's part of an education funding system designed to prevent an over-reliance on local levies so that educational offerings across the state don't vary too widely.  Districts that are losing some of the aid they'd been promised must increase taxes to make it up.


Kansas Denies Firing Clerk Not Attending Office Bible Study

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas secretary of state's office has asked a judge to throw out the federal lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims she was fired for not attending Bible study sessions at the office. Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker argued in a filing Thursday that Courtney Canfield cannot prove discrimination and any remaining claims are barred by sovereign immunity. The state contends Canfield was terminated from her clerk's job because of disruptive workplace behavior, poor attendance and excessive personal phone use — not because of "religious animus." Kansas contends that that the only evidence of religious discrimination is a statement Rucker allegedly made to another woman that Canfield was fired because she did not go to church. Rucker argues he was not the decision maker in her firing.


79-year-old Wichita Man Killed in Lawnmower Accident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 79-year-old Kansas man is dead after his riding lawnmower rolled into a creek near his Wichita home and trapped him underneath. The Wichita Eagle reports police responded to the 911 call Thursday afternoon after the man's wife found him. Police spokeswoman Nikki Woodrow says he was pronounced dead at the scene. It wasn't clear how long the man had been trapped. It was the second fatal Wichita lawnmower mishap in as many days. On Wednesday, a 63-year man who owns a lawn care business was trapped under a mower he was repairing at his home. The motor was still running when he was found. He also was pronounced dead at the scene.


Voting Rights Groups Appeal Federal Form Changes in Kansas, 2 Other States

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Voting rights groups are appealing a judge's order which they say threatens to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in three states in the upcoming November elections. A notice of appeal filed yesterday (FRI) to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeks a quick review of the actions of a U.S. elections official who added proof-of-citizenship requirements on a federal mail-in voter registration form. The groups seek to set aside the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's "unauthorized and unilateral" modification requiring citizenship documentation for residents of Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. Their filing contends the action — taken without public notice — violates federal law. It says that evidence of those violations is so overwhelming that the Justice Department agreed it should be immediately overturned.


Westar Energy Asks Kansas Agency to Approve $12.2 Billion Sale

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A joint application to approve the $12.2 billion sale of Westar Energy Inc. has been filed with the Kansas Corporation Commission. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Great Plains Energy Inc., Kansas City Power and Light and Westar filed the application Tuesday. If approved, Westar would be sold to Great Plains. Great Plains is the parent company of KCP&L. According to the filing, pre-tax savings and efficiencies for Great Plains and Westar are estimated to be about $65 million in the first year after the transaction closes. The companies say those savings are expected to increase to nearly $200 million annually. The filing says the transaction will create a significant state income tax benefit. The commission has 60 days to set a procedural schedule regarding the potential sale.


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