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Budget update: Let's make a deal [with update]

Updated Wed. 5/25/11
The school aid budget was reported out of conference committee today, and sailed rapidly through the Senate. The “compromise” bill reduces the cut to K-12, but does not plow the funds into the foundation allowance.

Last week, the Governor and majority leaders of the Legislature announced a budget agreement that reduced cuts to public schools. They were able to do this because of the projected $430 million increase in State revenues for the current year. These are considered “one-time” funds, however, because a potential surplus for next year will be eaten up by the business tax cut recently passed by the Legislature.

Money, Money, Money: K-12 budget bills move to conference

House and Senate conferees will be able to negotiate virtually the entire K-12 budget from scratch, while passage of the Governor’s tax package narrows options and the revenue conference offers limited hope.

Over the next days, the members of the House and Senate conference committee on their respective versions of the School Aid budget will be hammering out a compromise, with virtually everything on the table – at least in theory. At the same time, passage last week of the Governor’s tax package – which eliminated the Michigan Business Tax and replaced it with the much smaller Corporate income tax and also increased personal income taxes on many filers – has effectively closed, for now, any options of increasing the revenue stream to school aid.

Finally, the May revenue estimation conference offered a glimmer of hope, indicating that revenues for the current fiscal year (2011) would be $132.4 million higher in the school aid fund and nearly $429 million higher in the SAF and General Fund combined. However, a potential $500 million overall surplus for next fiscal year largely evaporates with the tax package just passed, hitting the school aid fund especially hard.

Budget Brief: Snyder's education budget proposal

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder presented his first budget proposals to the state legislature on 17 February. While it wasn't quite the "atomic bomb" Lt. Governor Brian Calley had promised, it produced shock waves nonetheless. By scrapping the Michigan Business Tax and replacing it with a much narrower corporate income tax, the proposed budget cuts business taxes by over $1 billion in 2011-12 and by $1.7 billion in the year after. To pay for this and still balance the budget, the governor wants to cut overall education spending by nearly $1.1 billion next year; his proposal also makes changes to the income tax that will increase revenues in large part by requiring retirees and low-income families to pay more in taxes. School districts may face overall reductions of $715 per pupil. Evidently, this is Gov. Snyder's vision for "reinventing Michigan."

Brief: Budget hangups

*Negotiations on a school aid budget for FY2011 ground to a halt as House and Senate conferees split on what to do with the projected School Aid Fund surplus.* After months of uncertainty, closure appeared near on the school aid budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year. A deal in principle was reached among House and Senate members on the conference committee reconciling the differences in "the two chambers' versions of the budget bill, SB 1163":http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2010-SB-1163. The Senate version, passed before the "optimistic news from the May revenue estimation conference":http://www.miparentsforschools.org/node/127, had included further cuts of $118 per pupil plus larger transfers from the cash-strapped general fund. The revenue conference projections, however, allowed lawmakers to consider making no cuts at all for fiscal 2011. The news was good enough, in fact, that the School Aid Fund might emerge with a surplus when all was said and done. And that is where the trouble began.

A sliver of good news from the revenue conference

The State's key financial agencies released their consensus revenue estimate today, updating their predictions for state tax revenue for both this fiscal year and next. The consensus estimate for School Aid revenue for this year (2009-10) is now $10.75 billion, up $292 million (2.8%) from the estimates made in January. The estimate for next year (2010-11) is now $10.83 billion, up $352 million (3.4%) from the January estimates. These new projections may limit school aid cuts for next year to the $118 per pupil passed by the Senate earlier this spring, or possibly reduce it even more.

Clear thinking: the school funding situation

One of the interesting things about doing local advocacy work is that it gives you a whole new perspective on how the public views school funding issues. It can also give you a detailed look at the fuzzy thinking of those who argue that our schools can't, or shouldn't, be given the resources to avoid major cuts to programs and personnel. As part of our "Project Washtenaw," MIPFS volunteers have been engaging the communities in Washtenaw County about the crisis their public schools now face. One year, a failed county millage proposal, and a bundle of desperate budget cuts later, we've learned some important lessons about how school funding is often treated in the public discourse and how that might be changed for the better. We'd like to share them with you.

House declines to pass K-12 budget with huge cuts

*Working against a midnight deadline, the State House could not muster enough votes to pass a School Aid budget that would have handed districts a $218 per pupil cut three months into their fiscal years.* The school aid bill, "HB 4447":http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2009-HB-4447, emerged from a joint House-Senate conference committee last week including $482 million in cuts to K-12 funding, mostly in the form of a $218 per pupil funding cut. Part of the rationale for the deeper than expected cuts was to save some $180 million in Federal stimulus money to avoid deeper cuts next year - an election year. bq. Tell your lawmakers what you think! "Check out our action alert on the school aid budget by clicking here":http://capwiz.com/miparentsforschools/issues/alert/?alertid=14099486.

It's September 10th: do you know where your school's funding is?

*Our lawmakers are once again at a crossroads, figuring out how to manage the tremendous decline in revenues for public services, including schools. Time is running out.*

Constant readers will notice the shortage of news on the state K-12 education budget in recent months. There is a good reason: there hasn't been any.

Budget strugges continue; Senate cuts $413 million from K-12 schools next year

Rushing to get budget bills passed before adjourning for the July 4th recess, the state Senate on 24 June passed its version of the K-12 school aid budget bill. Senators made only minor changes to the amended bill reported from the Appropriations Committee and voted along party lines to approve a budget that includes some $413 million in cuts to schools, including a $110 per pupil cut to local school districts and the near-elimination of several early childhood and school-readiness programs. _More...._

Sinking fund bill passes House

*After some floor dramatics last week, the state House succeeded in passing HB 4313, which expands what school districts can purchase with sinking funds.* Opponents of the bill, mostly Republicans, argued to no avail that it would constitute an increase in property tax rates that required a super-majority vote in both houses. Other attempts to amend the bill at the last minute also failed. Even so, the legislation passed on a 74-35 vote, with eleven Republicans voting in favor while three Democrats voted against the bill. The bill now heads to the Senate, which allowed similar legislation to die at the end of last session.

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