Friday, October 31, 2008

Advocates say more cuts would be 'devastating'

This from C-J:

Advocates for human services, education and other state programs reacted with disbelief to news that the state is facing another large budget shortfall that could force more spending cuts...

...Gov. Steve Beshear said the state is facing a shortfall of nearly $300 million in the fiscal year that could force more cuts at agencies that have already experienced reductions as he sought to balance the current budget, which took effect July 1.

Beshear said yesterday that he will develop a plan to deal with the shortfall, including ways to increase revenue and cuts that could affect any agency funded by the state...

...[E]ducation officials worry about the effect of further cuts on their already-lean budgets.

University of Kentucky President Lee Todd said more cuts would be "challenging, especially when they come mid-year."

"We spent half the money and we can't change our budget a lot," he said. "We'll continue to operate as best we can."Richard A. Crofts, interim president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said higher education officials believe they offer a long-term solution to the state's economic woes by producing a more educated workforce.

"We realize there are serious problems. But we also believe we are part of a positive solution," Crofts said.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud said it would be "incredibly difficult" to cut any more money from the state's kindergarten-12th grade education budget.

"These are tough times and I understand that," he said. "But this would be more than devastating to our school districts and it would really impact our children."

The Kentucky Department of Education already had to cut $43 million for professional development programs and after-school services, as well as money for textbooks. In addition, more than 1,100 jobs were cut by the state's public schools this year, according to a recent survey released by the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Cordelia Hardin, chief financial officer for Jefferson County Public Schools, said the district's revenue outlook already is poor.

"We are already committed to teaching staff, we can't make staffing cuts in the middle of the year," she said...

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