A gap in education funding has created such a stir in Oklahoma that work to lessen cuts for the rest of the 2010 fiscal year have delayed the next round of funding.
Lawmakers did not meet the April 1st deadline for the 2011 budget and are still in the process of negotiating how to make the core area harmed as little as possible, according to State Rep. Lisa J. Billy and Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada.
Cuts for schools in the state were initially about 10 percent and conflicting reports say that the range is now down to 3-5 percent.
For cuts to be reduced other agencies would need to be cut further, but at this time the decision has not been made on who will get less funding as a result, said Paddack.
Each agency is pleading their case to keep their funding from falling victim to further cuts, so the decision will not be made in the normal time frame.
“It feels like sometimes all 99 state agencies are fighting for their life at once,” said Billy. “My job is very gruesome and it is difficult to choose who gets cut.”
The hardest part may not be over either since the state deficit is expected to increase next year, though solutions suggested include using stimulus money or putting a hold on incentives, said Paddack.
Most areas have been cut seven percent and lawmakers are trying to do this without raising taxes.
Though the news may still seem grim, February was actually a good month for state revenue due to areas like income tax collection, said Billy.
Legislation was also recently passed loosening mandates on requirements for schools that normally have to purchase new textbooks or materials.
“I don’t know the total savings, but one school in my district is going to be able to save $80,000 by reusing things like old books next year,” said Billy. “Schools can do this for up to two fiscal years.”
All legislation in progress must have a decision made before the end of May, which should be plenty of time, said Billy. It is possible that education funding for 2011 may be decided as early as this month.