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School board curtails labor costs in budget


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POSTED: Friday, July 10, 2009

Avoiding a possible shutdown of public schools on Sept. 21, members of the state Board of Education passed a $1.8 billion budget for 2009-2010 that covers a $226.85 million shortfall and includes reducing about $117.4 million in labor costs.

Yesterday's vote followed a refusal from state Budget Director Georgina Kawamura to release the department's annual allotment because of the lack of a budget plan.

“;The fiscal reality is we have to do this,”; board member John Penebacker said.

“;Unless we have an approved plan, there's no way they will consider a further allotment.”;

Board members were told that the department would only carry the operation of public schools until Sept. 21.

School starts on July 28.

The board, hoping it might be able to find additional funds rather than make deep operational cuts, had delayed passing the budget.

Board Chairman Garrett Toguchi said details of the labor cuts were pending and would be adjusted based on the outcome of labor negotiations between public employee unions and the state.

Toguchi said even with passage of the budget, he felt the board should seek funding elsewhere to replace the cuts, including the use of the hurricane and rainy-day funds.

To cover some of the shortfall, the Department of Education will transfer $93 million in federal funds. The balance includes $40 million in previous cuts approved in October, $16 million — or more than $34 per student — in supplies and equipment spending and $630,000 from the closing of Wailupe Valley School.

Board members said schools were already suffering from lack of funds and that the cuts will further hurt them.

“;There isn't enough money to buy equipment and supplies,”; board member Herbert Watanabe said.