DOE plans to limit pain of budget cuts
The state Department of Education plans to absorb a $10.2 million budget cut in the next academic year by slashing administrative spending so it will not have to raise the price of after-school programs, bus fares and lunch to cover the shortfall.
Yesterday a Board of Education committee approved restricting funds previously set aside to pay the salary of positions that have been vacant since before July of last year and help schools change to a funding formula that allocates money based on student need.
The Education Department also saved money in special-education contracts and predicts expenses for unemployment compensation to fall below what was allocated for the current school year, said Budget Director Adele Chong.
School board member Breene Harimoto praised the department for targeting administrative costs. But he called them "one-time cuts" and worried that any future budget reductions created by the state's slowing economy would likely affect programs more closely tied to student achievement.
"As we go further, the cuts are going to be more and more painful," said Harimoto, who chairs the committee on Budget and Fiscal Accountability.
Lawmakers said slower revenue projections forced them to decrease funds for A+, food and transportation -- areas they felt would have the least impact on teaching -- from the Education Department's $2.4 billion operating budget.
Education officials were originally looking at increasing fees for A+, which costs about $55 per month; bus fares, which are 35 cents for a one-way trip; and the $1.25 lunch to make up for the funding drop.
A Board of Education committee passed a proposal last month that would allow education officials to raise the bus fare to as much as $300 a year from the current $120, said Randy Moore, assistant superintendent for school facilities and support services. If the Education Department were to seek a bus fare increase, prices could go up in the 2009-10 school year at the earliest, Moore said.