Wednesday, March 25, 2015

11th Hour language could make SEEK a "Necessary Government Expense"

This from KSBA:
Gov. Steve Beshear

If Gov. Steve Beshear agrees, an 11th-hour bill adopted by the Kentucky General Assembly would eliminate cuts in the SEEK program this year due to a projected shortfall.

Before adjourning the 2015 session early this morning, legislators in the House and Senate passed House Bill 510, originally a measure on tax collections. However, language adopted in a free conference committee of members of both chambers states:

Additional SEEK Funding: IF the above General Fund appropriation (in the biennial budget) is not sufficient to fully fund the SEEK program, including adjustments pursuant to KRS 157.360 in fiscal year 2014-15, the Kentucky Department of Education may request up to $10,000,000 in fiscal year 2014-15, which shall be deemed a necessary government expense and shall be paid from the General Fund Surplus Account (KRS 48.700) or the Budget Reserve Trust Fund Account (KRS 48.705).

In February, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday asked the Beshear administration for $8 million to cover the projected shortfall resulting from factors including:

      · lower than projected property assessments;
      · higher than projected Prior Year End-of-Year Adjusted Average Daily Attendance; and
      · higher than projected Exceptional Child counts in categories of low and moderate incidence.

The commissioner cited projections of a state budget surplus due to improvements in General Fund tax receipts.

Last month, State Budget Director Jane Driskell essentially declined Holliday’s request as “premature,” citing the requirement that the state must first use any reserves to cover “necessary government expenses,” such as natural disasters and other emergency expenses.

Now, the HB 510 language formally designates full funding of SEEK for the current fiscal year as “a necessary government expense.”

Holliday praised House and Senate members for the action

“I’m encouraged that legislators recognize schools’ needs and still see education funding as a priority in the Commonwealth," the commissioner said in a statement to eNews.

KSBA Executive Director Mike Armstrong also expressed appreciation to the legislature for working to ease the impact of the SEEK cuts on districts this year.

“We’d especially like to thank the chairmen of the HB 510 free conference committee, Rep. Rick Rand and Sen. Paul Hornback, for recognizing the importance of this investment in education,” Armstrong said.

The 2015 General Assembly concluded its work and adjourned early this morning. Bills passed the past two days now to go Gov. Beshear for his approval or veto.

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