State Capitol News
4:20 pm
Wed May 13, 2009

Budget plan would take school funds

Phoenix, AZ – State lawmakers are set to vote this morning on a plan that could
take up to 300 million dollars in funds some say school districts
have in excess funds.

Lawmakers thought they fixed the current year's budget in January
with a $1.6 billion combination of cuts, raids on special
accounts and federal stimulus dollars. But tax collections remain
anemic. And at this rate the state will end the fiscal year June
30th in the red, something not constitutionally permissible. This
plan would defer payment of $300 million that schools are
supposed to get Friday in state aid until the new budget year
begins July 1. But if districts have excess funds of their own,
the state won't pay them back. Sen. Russell Pearce said was
unapologetic about taking school dollars to balance the budget.

(K-12, we want to protect as much as possible. This money is
sitting there. The bulk of money they have no authority to spend.
It only makes sense to use it in education. Let's avoid
additional cuts, let's avoid future layoffs, let's make sure our
classrooms are fully funded. )

But Chuck Essigs, who lobbies for school district business
managers said there's a price to be paid for all that.

(It'll vary from district to district. But it will make property
taxes higher next year in a number of districts than it was this
year because those balances will not be available to help.)

Essigs said the only other choice for schools who have to use
their cash balances in place of state aid would be to cut
services.