Improved state revenue could ease Vail Valley school cuts
EAGLE, Colorado – An uptick in state tax revenues could ease the cuts local schools will take in state funding.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and the state Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee announced the state received $231 million more in tax revenues than projected. He wants to restore proposed cuts in K-12 education.
For Eagle County schools, that could be up to $1 million in state funding.
But the money is already in the political crosshairs. Some state lawmakers want to split the money between education and a $100 million property tax exemption for seniors, and other items.
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The 2012 budget battle begins in the Republican-controlled House when the Colorado State Legislature convenes early next month.
The $231 million increase is 3.2 percent higher than September’s forecast. It’s from increased sales taxes and capital-gains taxes after investors sold off stock, says Henry Sobanet, executive director of the Office of State Budgeting and Planning.
Any additional state funding will help local schools, says Phil Onofrio, the Eagle County school district’s CFO. The $1.3 million in state funding cuts were part of an overall $5.5 million budget cut the school district faces as it prepares its 2012 budget.
“We appreciate the governor’s statement and we’re happy about the news,” Onofrio says.
But the governor’s plan to put the money back into education still has to survive state lawmakers’ legislative sausage grinder.
Onofrio says that he and everyone else will have to wait and see.
“Now it’s purely political and it will be whatever the politicians say it is. We need to see how the legislative process allocates the additional revenue,” Onofrio said. “At the very least it may be a couple hundred thousand more for our school district, or it may mean up to a million, depending on how the politics work.”
It’s good news, but not great, say state Republican lawmakers.
“We are by no means out of the woods. We need to continue to show spending restraint and prioritize education funding,” said Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, chair of the House Economic and Business Development Committee.
The state teachers union is happy about Hickenlooper’s plan.
“Our students and schools so desperately needed a good-news day, and this is good news,” said Beverly Ingle, president of the Colorado Education Association.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.