Utah Office of Education slips up on budget
The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) may need to hire a math tutor.
Thanks to a faulty spreadsheet, the office miscalculated its budget for the coming school year — by about $25 million. The shortfall is one of a handful of "pressing issues" that led Utah Governor Gary Herbert to summon legislators back to Capitol Hill for a special session Wednesday afternoon.
While $25 million may seem like a lot of money, according to USOE Public Relations Manager Mark Peterson the amount represents only .8 of one percent of the office’s $3 billion budget. He said the office undercounted the number of weighted pupil units anticipated for the coming school year by about 8,000. Each unit, which roughly corresponds to the number of students throughout the state, is worth $2,842.
comparison, the Park City School District has been struggling for months to cut $5 million from its budget for the next school year without losing staff or cutting programs. The school board was scheduled to meet on the issue again last night and board members may ask for a tax increase to come up with the funds.
Peterson said he does not anticipate the legislators will reopen the education budget. Instead, he said, he is confident lawmakers will agree to cover the discrepancy with state "carry over" funds. Based on Utah’s improving economy, he said, there should be ample surpluses in income-tax collections to cover the amount.
Peterson said that the amount was comparable to a $400 shortfall in an annual family budget of $50,000. However, he added, the USOE has already taken steps to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again.
Ally Isom, the deputy chief of staff in the Governor’s Office, confirmed on Tuesday that schools should not see any cuts as a result of the shortfall. She said legislators would probably allocate additional one-time funds to the USOE and that "there shouldn’t be a hit to other agencies either."
The session is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. , Wednesday, June 20. Lawmakers will also take up an issue of particular interest to the tourism industry: the number of liquor licenses currently available throughout the state.