Friday, July 13, 2001

State agencies asked to share in cuts

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Gov. Paul Patton on Thursday presented a plan to pare $326 million from the budget.

        Education programs would be spared, but public schools would have to shoulder some added expense. A host of state agencies, along with the court system and the legislative branch, would be expected to tighten their belts to the tune of $70.8 million.

        The idea was to preserve school programs and human services and avoid layoffs, Mr. Patton and top aides said.

        “There will be cuts, and some of those cuts will be felt. I don't believe they will be draconian,” Mr. Patton said in a news conference.

        A spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association disagreed. The plan calls for school districts to absorb the cost of health insurance for teachers who are federally funded — a $10.7 million cost the state has borne until now. There are about 5,000 such employees, including special education teachers.

        “There's no way school districts in this state can absorb a $10.7 million punch in the stomach,” said Brad Hughes, the association's spokesman.

        Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit said Kentucky schools got a bit less than $500 million in federal money this year. The “best guess” is that federal funding will increase by about $20 million in the federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, he said.

        The budget reduction plan also calls for the state to retain $50 million of excess money in the school funding program with the unwieldy name of Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky, or SEEK. Ordinarily, the money would be turned loose to districts as a kind of bonus.

        Mr. Hughes saw some irony in the administration's slogan: Education Pays. “Education is going to pay through this cut plan,” he said.

        The administration also plans to dip into its “rainy day” account, the budget reserve trust fund, for $120 million. It figures to save $35 million on debt service for projects that were financed more cheaply than expected.


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- State agencies asked to share in cuts
Tristate A.M. Report