Budget, last minute bills on the mind of Park City School District administrators
March 8, 2011
As the 2011 Utah Legislature comes to a close Thursday, Patrick Ogden of the Park City School District is watching the legislators closely as they work to push through a number of Public Education bills. At this point in the session, the legislators often re-group and consider what bills are most important to discuss before they run out of time, Ogden said.
The majority of the bills up for third reading in the House and Senate have been sent to the rules committee while the legislators meet with their various caucuses to determine what bills should receive priority treatment. Added focus will be placed on amending the education base budget that was passed early in the session, Ogden said.
The initial base budget, SB 1 proposed by West Valley Republican Sen. Chris Buttars, proposed an 11 percent public education budget cut. But the Executive Appropriations Committee met Monday to determine how much of the proposed cuts would be restored. As of the Tuesday recommendations, the entire cut will be put back into the budget, returning it to the same value it was for the 2010-11 school year.
On top of restoring the early cuts, committee members suggested about $38.5 million be added into the general education fund for 2011-12. During the closing days of the session, Legislators will draft bills based on the recommendations outlined by the committee, Ogden said. The bills will likely not meet much opposition as the appropriation committee based recommendations on a balanced budget, he added.
The additional money will need to go toward funding enrollment growth, projected to cost about $76 million for an estimated 14,700 new students next year, according to Ogden. Inflation for operating costs, such as gas and utilities prices, and personnel increases for salaries and benefits would also need to come from the additional money.
"That $38.5 million is going to be stretched very thin," Odgen said. "In a pre-recession year, we would have seen $150-200 million more in public education funding."
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Ogden said he is watching one particular bill closely through the last days of the session.
Currently, when a student transfers to a charter school, 25 percent of his or her cost is paid by the district through locally raised funds. The state foots the other 75 percent. Under House Bill 313, districts would absorb the cost of transferring students through the next 13 years, eventually reaching 100 percent, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
The thought behind the bill is if a student leaves the district; the money should follow him or her, according to Ogden.
"The counter argument to that is that unless there are significant numbers of students that leave at the same time for a charter school, the costs don’t necessarily decrease when they transfer to a charter school," he added. "There is very little cost savings when a student transfers to a charter school."
Because charter schools don’t implement any levies on local property or income taxes, Odgen said he would prefer to see a similar funding program applied to the schools rather than this bill.
The bill is marked for a third reading in the House and could be brought to a vote at any time before Thursday.