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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 1, 2007

School budget likely $670M over 2 years

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer


If the proposed budget numbers stand through this week of final negotiations at the Capitol, some of the items funded for education include:

  • $25 million for electrical improvements.

  • $20 million more for the Weighted Student Formula.

  • $15.8 million in fiscal 2007-08 and $17.6 million in 2008-09 for new instructional equipment.

  • $8.7 million in 2007-08 and $7 million in 2008-09 to meet requirements of No Child Left Behind and to test students learning English as a second language.

  • $6 million in extra money for school food services.

  • $2.6 million for additional school bus transportation costs.

  • $4.2 million over the two years for additional utility costs.

  • $4.2 million for special education teachers to support Individualized Education Plan requirements.

  • $6.2 million over the two years to improve information technology systems, including a student information system.

  • $5.7 million over the two years for fiscal accountability, including 15 complex area business managers, three accountants and a new financial management system.

  • $1 million for a special superintendent's fund to bolster crucial needs when weighted student formula funding falls short.

    But at the same time, the department expects not to get these things it asked for:

  • $8 million for another two months in funding to pay vice principals as their jobs change from 10-month to 12-month status.

  • $396,000 to design, staff and implement three newcomer centers to help non-native-English-speaking students coming to the state.

  • $736,000 to create a new section to monitor federal law compliance.

  • $5 million of the $10 million requested for air conditioning over two years, which means fewer schools will get relief from summer heat.

  • Half of its request for $1.6 million over two years for accessible playground equipment.

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    Although the figures are not final, Hawai'i schools are expected to be funded to the tune of $670.5 million, excluding salaries, over the next two years.

    It's sufficient to cover much of what school officials say are top building and operating priorities, yet short of everything the department had asked for.

    School board members yesterday heard an update on the budget request, which is still up for final legislative approval. According to the update, legislators are close to approving $174.1 million for operating expenses and $496.4 million for capital improvements projects over the next two years.

    The total budget, including salaries, would be $2.013 billion for the year ending June 30, 2008, and $2.038 billion for the next year.

    That's up from three years ago when school spending, including salaries, was $1.8 billion. It rose to $2 billion for each of the most recent fiscal years.

    The new $670 million two-year budget is 63 percent of what the Department of Education had requested.

    Despite the gap, schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto told the Board of Education "we're doing well."

    Items that would be funded include $25 million for electrical improvements that would allow more schools to install air conditioners and $20 million for schools that stood to lose part of their existing budget under a new formula being devised to fund schools.

    The budget being considered would also contribute $150 million over the next two years to reduce a repair and maintenance backlog that soared to more than $525 million over the past few years but has already been pared back to less than $300 million.

    As has been the case recently, the school board and the governor once again presented competing budgets to the Legislature.

    During the previous two years, the governor trimmed the school board's requests, only to see the Legislature step in and give the department much of the money it asked for.

    Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.