State School Board explores budget cuts as part of state funding exercise

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SALT LAKE CITY — As part of a budgeting exercise to find savings and stress-test the state budget, lawmakers are aiming for a goal to reduce expenditures by 2 percent in all state agencies.

For K-12 education, that amounts to about $53 million in hypothetical budget cuts.

The Utah State Board of Education on Thursday agreed on a recommendation to the Legislature on what cuts could be made to the state's education budget that would satisfy the goal.

The board agreed to subtract $23.1 million from a flexible allocation line item, which gives non-restricted funding to all districts and charter schools throughout the state, similar to the weighted pupil unit. Charter school funding would see a drop of $11.4 million, and Utah Science, Technology and Research centers would lose about $6.2 million.

Other programs identified under the adjustment include pupil transportation, adult education, concurrent enrollment, matching funds for school nurses and the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.

In all, the board's recommendation comes within $188,600 of the $53 million target.

But education leaders emphasized the fact that the exercise does not mean that budgets will be cut, especially given the fact that revenue surpluses are expected to contribute to funds for schools.

"I think one of the questions for legislative leadership are what items are below the line that really should be above the line," said David Thomas, vice chairman of the State School Board.

Thomas said one of the "options" given by legislators was to put the $53 million taken from the various programs into increasing school funding based on the weighted pupil unit, which measures the overall cost of educating students of different ages and learning requirements.

"Obviously, we reserve the right to claw back any money into programs that we thought were good programs that should stay below the line," he sad.

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee will continue discussing the base budget bill Monday. Email: Twitter: MorganEJacobsen

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