Joint Budget Committee Briefing
COMMITTEE ON JOINT EDUCATION
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02:36 PM -- Joint Budget Committee Briefing
The committee came back to order after a brief recess. Representative Pommer introduced the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) members to the Joint Education Committee, and shared two handouts with committee members (Attachments D and E). Representative Pommer explained that health services, Higher Education, K-12 Education, and Corrections are the largest part of the budgets, and are mostly not available for budget cuts because of Amendment 23, Medicaid, the necessity to treat inmates humanely, but higher education does not have any protections in law. Representative Merrifield further noted that, notwithstanding the budget downturn, the higher education funding levels would have reached its 2001 level. Representative Pommer referred committee members to page 33 of the JBC budget briefing document (Attachment F). Pommer explained that the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) requested an $80 million increase in funding and The Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB) requested a $ 30 million increase, but that there will be no increase in the higher education for the upcoming budget year.
Representative Marostica explained that he asked four universities -- The University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, and University of Northern Colorado -- to come forward with ideas for a public-private partnerships for funding models, where the institutions would eventually be off public funding. He noted that these universities are working on models right now. Senator Romer stated he believes the public-private model will foster access and believes it is time for an earnest conversation on higher education funding, specifically about how the state supports research institutions versus the smaller institutions. Representative Middleton expressed concern about the private-public partnership model.
Senator Bacon expressed concern with the private sector directing higher education, and stated if public education is for sale, the state needs to proceed with caution. Representative Merrifield also advised to proceed with caution. Representative Pommer continued the presentation by discussing the higher education maintenance fund.
Representative Pommer then discussed K-12 Education budget (Attachment G), and how the protections in Amendment 23 make it difficult to pare back the K-12 budget, which is approximately 40 percent of the state's General Fund. Representative Pommer reviewed the total program formula, which determines funding for each school district
Representative Massey asked how many counties have seen a loss in property values. Representative Pommer stated that he does not have the county information, but that he assumes that all of them have, and will result in a projected $ 900 million shortfall at the local level. Representative Massey said that it is problematic to only look at the local program contribution every year instead of two years, especially during an economic downturn Representative Pommer then reviewed the State Education Fund forecast and the changes in assessed values and it correlation to property tax revenue.
Representative Pommer reviewed the school finance supplemental, which he explained will be $26 million because the October pupil count was higher than anticipated, but he noted that the supplemental is not protected by the Amendment 23. Senator King asked how much the per pupil amount is funded above the requirement. Representative Pommer stated it was about 1/2 percent above, or $ 19.72 more per pupil, equating to about $ 20 million. Senator King recommended putting per pupil funding to required level, and cutting the $ 19.72. Representative Massey asked about the mill levy freeze, and Representative Pommer explained it could be a significant amount of money, but without having the court's decision, it is not possible to calculate at this point.
Senator Romer asked for JBC staff to think about Amendment 23 in a deflationary environment. Senator Hudak asked Representative Pommer if growth is still required by Amendment 23. Representative Pommer explained that not approving the supplemental would not put the state in violation of the Amendment 23 requirements. Senator King disagreed with Representative Pommer's assessment of the supplemental.
Representative Pommer also reviewed categorical funding and K-12 spending that is unrelated to Amendment 23 requirements (See Attachment E). He also reviewed some of the decision items for the Department of Education (see budget briefing document).
Representative Summers asked about funding for the BEST bill, regarding fund for school capital construction projects, which falls outside of Amendment 23-required spending. Representative Pommer stated an option would be to not fund BEST, and then put that money back into the State Public School Fund or the State Education Fund, to keep that fund solvent. Representative Pommer stated that not funding the BEST bill would have an immediate impact on the state's ability to balance the budget. Another option Representative Pommer offered for balancing the budget is to remove the cap on the amount of interest that can be spent from the State Public School Fund . Representative Massey what percentage of BEST funds are tied to a local match. Representative Pommer stated that he did not think that there were any.
Representative Merrifield shared information on the proposed federal stimulus package, and what is included for education (Attachment H).
The committee adjourned.