Hawaii Department of Education officials told school board members Tuesday that they want to cut $9.15 million from the roughly $326 million in general-fund special education spending because of a likely reduction in state tax revenues.
The proposed cut represents a 2.8 percent reduction.
The plan contradicts recommendations from the Department of Budget and Finance, which encourages specific reductions to various DOE programs in anticipation of the state’s Council on Revenues projection. The budget office says that the DOE shouldn’t make any cuts to special education.
The DOE received $325.5 million in general-fund appropriations for special education and support services.
But the DOE plan proposes a different distribution of the cuts, such as a 2.84 percent reduction to the central DOE administration budget rather than the 10 percent recommended by the budget office.
The numbers are all contingencies because the Council on Revenues hasn’t yet released its revenue projection for the 2014 fiscal year. However, the projection has steadily decreased. The latest projection estimates revenues at $5.37 billion; last May it was $5.74 billion.
Overall, the DOE wants to cut programs by $18.6 million, or 1.33 percent of its $1.4 billion in general-fund appropriations. The program that could take the biggest hit is “Instructional Support,” whose general-fund budget could be reduced by $2.3 million, or 4.93 percent of its appropriations.
The proposal is angering advocates and some Board of Education members, particularly its Vice Chairman Brian De Lima, who questioned why the department would even think of trimming special education.
The budget office only recommends cuts to discretionary programs, which special education is not.
“The DOE has broken out $18.6 differently from that B&F has determined as discretionary,” said DOE Chief Financial Officer Amy Kunz.
Kunz reasoned that the department will be able to make up for the cuts through staff vacancies that haven’t been filled. If those vacancies are filled, she said, “we will find those finds.”
“This is one solution to help us one year but knowing we are not impacting programs,” she said, adding that the department is closely monitoring the state’s financial situation. “We will be implementing (individualized education programs) and providing services required with no impact to the program.”
De Lima wasn’t satisfied by Kunz’s assurances.
“I need to understand how you can make such a representation on the record,” he said.
The official projection is slated for some time in the coming weeks.
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