Senate Bill 55 is this year's revision of the current budget. As they do each year, legislators will use SB 55 to amend the current budget to reflect changes in revenues and expenses that have since accrued since legislators guessed ten months ago how much it would cost to run the state.
Legislators didn't guess too badly last year. Out of general fund expenditures of $1.392 billion approved last March, Senate Bill 55 cuts just $9.4 million, or 0.67%. Guess your household budget to within 1%, and you're doing pretty well.
Downward revisions in education make up the bulk of the general fund savings. The vo-techs saw 225 fewer students enroll than the budget anticipated, resulting in $749,054 less expense than budgeted. K-12 fall enrollment was 354 students lower than budget, resulting in $1.69 million less in state aid. But the big difference is $6.61 million more in local revenue than the state budget expected. Add in a few other details, keep a little cushion for other unpredictables, and SB 55 takes $7.4 million out of education column of the state general fund.
The Bureau of Finance and Management told the Joint Appropriations Committee last week that revenues came in $10.7 million lower than expected for this fiscal year. However, by cashing out a $16 million Medicaid reserve fund and the ACA-obsoleted risk pool of $2.4 million, plus other adjustments, the FY2015 budget still comes out ahead $14.4 million. In other words, even if all the kids we expected had enrolled in the vo-techs and the public schools, and even if the locals hadn't overperformed on generating school revenue, we'd have still had plenty of money to cover our costs for this fiscal year.
Governor Dennis Daugaard once said he was "committed to the principle of 'first dollar and last dollar' for funding our schools." Well, here we have 14.4 million last dollars. Are we spending them on education?
The dual-credit program, which lets high school kids take college classes for credit toward graduation and toward their college transcripts for cheap is getting $577,500, to pay for many more students wisely participating (taking 5,500 more dual-credit courses than anticipated—good job, kids!). SB 55 sprinkles about $160K around the various campuses, plus 20 new full-time job units at USD. But the big one-time dollars we have at the end of this fiscal year are being directed elsewhere (per page 30 of BFM's January 14 presentation:
|Emergency and Disaster Fund (SB 39)
|Provider Direct Care Workforce Funding
|Captive Insurance for Property and Casualty
|Captive Insurance for Authorities
|Sanford Underground Lab Ross Shaft Upgrades
|SD Conservation Fund for Wildlife Habitat
|Jobs For America’s Graduates Start-up Funding
|River Flow Study
|Tax Refunds for Elderly and Disabled
|Rural Healthcare Recruitment Assistance (HB 1060)
|Rural Healthcare Facility Recruitment Assistance (HB1057)
|Total FY2015 Emergency Special Appropriations
Cleaning up disasters, recruiting health care workers, insuring state buildings, studying the Sioux River, giving old folks and the disabled a little tax break—all decent things to do... but none of them directing "last dollars" to improve our public schools.
Senate Bill 55 goes first to Senate Appropriations, which has yet to fix a date for that discussion. Perhaps amidst the recitation of dollar figures, we'll hear one of two legislators ask why we don't see more neat new ideas to boost our schools with those last dollars.