Education Budget Colors Inside and Outside the Lines

The General Assembly’s budget provides certain funding to K-12 funding formulas and large capital improvements, but places additional teacher pension funding and dollars for maintenance of aging school facilities in a category that requires special approval by the Governor.

The General Assembly’s budget maintained the Governor’s full funding of education formulas, including the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI). In addition, it maintained the $280 million in funding for the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) placed in the capital budget by the Governor.

Two pieces of education funding fall outside the main lines of the budget passed by the General Assembly, however. The General Assembly re-directed funding the Governor had allocated for the State’s “Rainy Day” Reserve, to fund these items. According to process, the Governor now needs to approve them, along with other items in that category for them to receive funding in FY 2017.

One item is $6.1 million for the Aging Schools Program. Aging Schools Program funding is widely seen as the most flexible and effective to target small-scale maintenance of older school buildings, a topic raised several times this year by the Board of Public Works. County governments provided more than $1 billion towards K-12 capital costs in 2016, and even combined with the State’s commitment, many government struggle to keep pace with renovation and expansion needs. The General Assembly re-directed $6.1 million intended by the Governor for the State Reserve to the 2017 Aging Schools Program.

Another item is a special appropriation for rising teacher pension costs. While the General Assembly shifted more than $200 million in teacher pension costs to county governments through a 2012 law, this year, teacher pension costs of local school boards will increase by more than $25 million, due in part to variables outside their control. The General Assembly’s budget provides $19 million of funding for FY 2017 that would account for increases due to those variables. The funding is provided through the State Reserve Fund allocation, however.

For more information, read Aging School Funding Tacked to Budget Reserves and Rainy Day Funding Re-Directed for Teacher Pension Increase.

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