Budget eases education woes
Gov. Lingle's plan restores $40M over the next two years
State education officials say some budgetary concerns have been eased after a preliminary review of the Lingle administration's two-year spending plan.
Officials say some funds that were not included in an original budget proposal have since been restored.
The Board of Education expects to gain a clearer picture of the state's spending plan today, when the administration provides a briefing to its Committee on Budget and Fiscal Accountability.
The board's budget request included an additional $258 million over the next fiscal biennium on top of its $1.95 billion base operating budget for fiscal year 2007.
Officials feared they would receive only about 25 percent of that request, based on a Dec. 1 letter from the state outlining its education spending plans in the upcoming fiscal biennium, which begins July 1.
Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto sent a response saying the overall shortfall would result in about $91 million less for schools at the classroom level.
Gov. Linda Lingle's budget released this week restored some of the funds, notably $40 million over two years for instructional equipment such as computers and books in classrooms statewide.
"We reviewed it, we talked about it and we made that change," said state Budget Director Georgina Kawamura.
Education spokesman Greg Knudsen said the department appreciates the move, noting that the new proposal marks a better starting point for lawmakers as they head into the 2007 session to craft the budget.
He said officials were still analyzing the budget and were unsure exactly how much more would be needed compared to what the governor has set aside in her budget.
Hamamoto's response also listed $285 million in capital improvement projects that would not be funded under the outline provided by the state.
Although the amount set aside for capital improvements was unchanged from the initial Dec. 1 outline -- about $300 million in general obligation bonds -- Knudsen said some of the projects were "rearranged" to accommodate projects of higher priority.
The overall budget "is better than what it had been initially," Knudsen said.
Lingle's $10.5 billion general fund budget for fiscal years 2008-09 is heavy on spending for education and social services.
Education accounts for the largest portion of spending -- about $2 billion, or 40 percent, in each year of the budget.
Today's meeting of the board's Committee on Budget and Fiscal Accountability is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Queen Liliuokalani Building, 1390 Miller St., Room 404.