Legislative delay could cost state schools $45 million

bshannon@theolympian.comJune 19, 2013 

Tuesday’s revenue and caseloads forecasts gave lawmakers about $320 million in newfound wiggle room, and budget writers said it should make it easier to reach a budget deal in time to avoid a government shutdown.

State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn has warned that the Legislature’s failure to pass a state budget by Friday means $45 million in aid to school districts may not go out as scheduled next month.

“Most of the money is needed for child nutrition and special education,” Dorn said in a news release last week.

State government agencies such as Dorn’s are going through exercises to see what a shutdown could mean. Temporary furloughs for thousands of state workers are considered likely if the divided Legislature cannot get a budget in place by June 30.

Local operations like Olympia School District have also been doing the math to see what impact a shutdown would mean for them. July 1 is the date a new two-year budget cycle begins, and without a budget it could mark the cessation of cash disbursements to schools via the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“We are very carefully analyzing our fund balance compared to our rate of expenditures, and we will be bringing some options before the (school) board,” Olympia schools spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said. “Right now we think we will be OK for July. But if it looks like we will be close, we can consider an inter-fund loan between our capital and operating budget, which is an option that is available to us.’’

The Olympia board meets June 25 — a Tuesday — so that is the date the briefing would likely take place if needed, Japhet said.

Dorn is on record as favoring larger investments in K-12 education to answer the Supreme Court ruling that said the state was failing to live up to its constitutional duty to amply fund basic education.

“The hits just keep on coming,” Dorn said in his statement. “Because the House and Senate cannot come to a compromise, there are a lot of unintended consequences. In this case, districts have already spent the money and the state won’t be able to reimburse them.”

On one side, Republicans who control the state Senate Majority Coalition have been hostile to new taxes, insisting upon policy reforms such as changes to workers’ compensation before considering new revenues.

On the other side, the Democrat-controlled House has insisted on closing tax exemptions for out-of-state shoppers, sales of bottled water and oil refineries, while resisting Senate calls to cut more deeply into social programs to close a $1.2 billion budget shortfall and put upward of $1 billion worth of new funding into K-12 schools.

bshannon@theolympian.com

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