DOE seeks $95M more, citing high cost of fuel
Schools are paying more for electricity and transportation
Fuel costs have hit residents at the pump, and the state Department of Education is no different, according to its budget request for next year.
The Department of Education is asking the state for about $95 million more than the current operating budget of $2.1 billion, almost a third of it a result of fuel costs that rose this past year.
Bus transportation, power bills and transporting food were anticipated to be millions of dollars more expensive next year, at least until fuel prices began to drop in recent weeks.
Education officials presented the budget request yesterday to the Board of Education's Budget Committee, which approved its operating budget.
The committee also approved the department's separate $388 million request for capital improvement projects next school year, which includes $75 million for electrical upgrades and air conditioning for more than 100 schools.
The department's projection of $75 a barrel for fuel was calculated in May, said DOE budget Director Edwin Koyama. The budget request may be amended as fuel prices continue to slide.
Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said the cost of contracts for bus and food transportation rose with fuel prices. The higher fuel prices also drove up energy bills. However, the price of oil per barrel has dropped below $60 this week, which means the department might have to adjust its figures from May.
"At that time, fuel costs were escalating," Koyama said. "Other departments we've consulted with also had assumptions in their budget requests that are even higher than we projected."
Koyama said he will discuss new projections with the state Budget and Finance Department. The Education Department still anticipates higher electrical costs because of the anticipated new air-conditioning units and the growing need for more high-tech equipment that uses electricity, such as computers, printers and video equipment.
The school system also seeks an additional $20 million to repair instructional equipment such as science lab tools, projectors and computers -- costs not included in the current budget, Koyama said.
It would cost about $396 million to replace all the equipment, and the department will stagger $20 million requests over the next 10 years, he said.
New personnel for the department's Civil Rights Compliance Office were axed, at least until officials can justify $157,099 for three new personnel, including a litigation coordinator.
Board member Mary Cochran asked why the department would need a coordinator when the state attorney general's office handles civil rights cases.
Hamamoto said the coordinator can act as a liaison between the schools and the attorney general, which Cochran called "a duplication of services."
"You want to talk about adding to the bureaucracy, this is a perfect example," Cochran said.
The full school board meets today on the Big Island to discuss and vote on the budget request. The budget request will then head to the state budget and finance office, before going under the legislative microscope during the next session.
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The state Department of Education is asking for about $95 million more than its current budget for the next fiscal year:
» $33.4 million: For shortfalls (power bills, transportation, food services)
» $29.3 million: Equipment repairs, increased pay for cleaners and lunch supervisors, increasing vice principals' salary to reflect 12-month employment
» $12.2 million: Restructuring, school redesign, No Child Left Behind compliance
» $1.5 million: Student needs, including interpreters for deaf students, Newcomer Centers and services for drug-addicted youths
» $9.2 million: Infrastructure and technology, including data conversion and management
» $4.8 million: Equipment and facilities, including equipment for new facilities as a result of recent capital improvement projects
» $3.9 million: Increase in operating funds for special-education teachers based on students' individualized education programs
» $1.1 million: Risk management, including insurance costs
Source: Department of Education