Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Speaker and Jar Jar Binks

The Courier-Journal reports that the House is considering an approach to school funding that would compel districts to draw down their fund balances:
Cutting funding that local school districts receive from the state and forcing them to spend money in their reserve funds is still an option to help balance the state budget for the next two years, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday.

School districts have a total of about $800million in their reserve funds, although Stumbo said not every district's fund would be tapped.

“There's a significant amount of money there that could be (used) to balance the budget,” the Prestonsburg Democrat said. “I'm not saying we are going to do it, but it could be used to supplement the (school funding formula) in this one-time occurrence.”

House Democrats are scrambling to find about $780million to balance the next two-year budget.
The $800 million figure is not, in fact, accurate for district reserve funds. It's roughly right for the amount districts had on hand on July 1, but that amount simply is not all reserves. Remember that districts rely heavily on property taxes that come in starting in November. As a result, they save all spring to be able to pay their bills through the summer and fall. It's part of their regular money management to have the money on hand on July 1, expecting it to be gone again by January 1.

That said, some of the money is indeed reserve money districts have saved for dangerous financial times. Surely those times are near at hand.

Or, as a famous Gungan once asked Qui-Gon Jinn and the young Obi-Wan Kenobi as they hurtled through the waters of Naboo: "What yet? Monster out dair! Leakin' in here! All sinkin' and no power! Whena yousa dinkin' wesa in trouble?"

I hate the idea of tapping districts' reserves, but I'm not sure I hate it more than than I hate the rest of this exhausting, massive fiscal crisis.

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