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How much was that deficit again?

25 March -- Numbers, numbers, everywhere. Lots of numbers have been tossed around -- $377 million deficit in the School Aid Fund, $220 per pupil reduction, and more -- but when you look at the details these numbers don't always seem to add up. Thanks to non-partisan staffers in Lansing (at the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies), information is available on the web that helps clear up some of the confusion, even if the underlying problems remain unchanged.

The Deficit

With talk of a $377 million deficit in school aid, a look at the most recent Senate bill (SB 221, discussed in the previous posting) might cause some confusion. Here's how it sorts out.

When the budget for this fiscal year was passed, last summer, everyone assumed that tax revenues would be sufficient to provide $11.648 billion to the School Aid Fund (SAF), which, along with Federal funding and a small transfer from the General Fund, would support over $13 billion in state spending on schools. At a January conference, however, top state economists agreed that tax revenues were falling further than expected. They issued a "consensus estimate" that revenue for the SAF would be only $11.230 billion, leaving a hole of around $417 million.

The Senate majority's answer

A major sticking point so far has been the Republican caucus' insistence that no revenue measures be considered for balancing the FY07 budget. Here's how the Senate Republicans have proposed to fill it:

  • $2.5 million in reduced aid to intermediate school districts (ISDs) and other entities (Senate only)
  • $57.3 million from the $34 per pupil reduction in the foundation grant (Senate only)
  • $262 million in one-time savings from revaluing the assets of the teachers' retirement fund (MPSERS); (similar to, but larger than, Gov.'s proposal)
  • $10 million cut from state lottery advertising that reverts to SAF (Senate only)
  • $21 million in foundation grant money saved because the state has lost nearly 8000 pupils from public schools and charters (same as Governor's proposal)
  • $5 million in eliminated specific "categorical" spending (same as Gov.)
  • $40 million by restructuring some bond debt (not in Gov.'s full proposal, but proposed by Gov.)
  • $20 million in reduced Special Education spending because of revised cost estimates (same as Gov.)

Total: $417 million (plus a bit of rounding error), or $377 million if you take into account the bond restructuring to begin with.

For more details, check out the Senate Fiscal Agency's breakdown of the Senate proposal in comparison to the Governor's:
And a detailed spreadsheet showing the breakdown of the cuts outlined in the Senate proposal:

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