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Friday, April 28, 2000

Legislature 2000

State finds
$50 million, can
make school repairs

A last-minute recalculation
found less money was needed
for retirement benefits than
initially estimated

By Richard Borreca


A last-minute recalculation of nearly $50 million by the state Employees Retirement System is allowing the Legislature to move ahead with $65 million in needed public school repairs.

The extra money was plugged into the state's $6.1 billion state budget to beef up education, according to legislators working on the budget bill.

House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, North Hamakua, North Hilo) said the budget stressed education by using $45 million in cash for repair and maintenance at public schools, with the rest coming from state bonds.

The budget, which will be up for a vote Tuesday, represents a 1 percent increase over the budget proposed last year.

Some of the extra money appropriated will go toward restoring budget cuts made during the most serious budget reductions of five years ago. For instance, nearly $3 million of the extra money will go to bringing public school kindergarten through second grade back to the 20 students per teacher ratio.

The retirement system refigured how much money had to be collected from the state for retirement benefits after the city sued over the demand in January for $16 million in contributions for the city's 8,000 workers when the state was assessed only $4.5 million.

Last year, the Legislature was able to wrap up the budget only after approving a bill that reduced government contributions for two years.

Legislators also approved the judiciary budget that includes $6.5 million to purchase land at the Kaikoo Mall in Hilo for the long-planned Circuit Court building.

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