Luna granted extension for budget request - Coeur d'Alene Press: Idaho News

Luna granted extension for budget request

Superintendent hopes to build around task force's recommendations

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 2:01 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

Schools chief Tom Luna has asked for more time to prepare the 2014-15 public schools budget request so he can build it around an education reform task force's recommendations.

Typically, department heads and staffs submit initial budget requests on or about Sept. 1.

Luna submitted a placeholder "statutory budget" on Sept. 3 to the state's Division of Financial Management and Legislative Services Office. But because Gov. Butch Otter's Task Force for Improving Education did not present its full recommendations until Aug. 23, Luna asked for an extra 30 days to submit a formal budget request that is relevant to the Task Force's recommendations.

Task Force members submitted their final report to Otter on Sept. 6. Public comment on the recommendations will be accepted through Sept. 27 via email.

The budget Luna submitted does not reflect the budget lawmakers and Otter will consider when the legislative session opens in January, State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said.

"Superintendent Luna will be working closely with all stakeholders as well as the staff at the State Department of Education on developing a budget request that addresses the recommendations of the Task Force," McGrath wrote in an email to Idaho Education News. "Superintendent Luna is tasked with preparing a budget recommendation for fiscal year 2015, but he also is cognizant that the Task Force recommendations are not a one-year solution."

Legislative Services Office Director Jeff Youtz and Division of Financial Management Administrator Jani Revier granted Luna's request for an extension.

However, they said any task force proposals, such as a new teacher pay model based on a career ladder, will need to be voted on as individual budget line items. They also urged Luna to be sensitive to the budget development timeline.

"At nearly one-half of the general fund budget, having the public schools budget in maintenance form in a timely manner is critical to ... both the Legislature and governor in understanding this request," they wrote to Luna.

The public schools budget is the largest state expense, and typically one of the most closely watched budgets around the Statehouse. Otter will outline his budget recommendations in January during his "State of the State" address. The budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will then spend two to three months crafting agency budgets for the Legislature's consideration.

Luna views the task force recommendations as "comprehensive" and may not prioritize them - a tactic the task force also avoided.

Taken as a whole, the recommendations are likely to include a price tag of several hundred million dollars.

"Superintendent Luna strongly believes if you ignore one, the others will not be as successful," McGrath wrote. "Therefore, the combination of all these recommendations is critical."

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