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Educators seek $18.5 million from state’s rainy-day fund

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Public education officials called on legislators Friday to dip into the state's rainy day fund to prevent drastic cuts in public education.

In 1996, voters approved a measure allowing the use of rainy day funds for public education budget shortfalls. Without funds from that fund, public education faces an additional $18.5 million cut for the remaining four months of school.

"If we had known about this during September, we could have taken a broad look (at the budget)," said Karen Derrick, from the Utah School Boards Association. "We need to ask our parents to talk to their legislators to access the rainy day fund."

GOP leaders discussed pulling $3.9 million from the fund during a meeting of the Executive Appropriations committee on Thursday.

"That fund has $120 million in it," Derrick said. "$3.9 million won't cut it."

Some districts were expecting $10 million for buildings and renovations, which was cut by the public education budget subcommittee. But educators are only calling for $18.5 million from the rainy day fund to cover this school year's budget.

Given advance notice, they can balance next school year's budget, they say, but would scramble madly to adjust to cuts for this year.

Budget committee co-chairman Rep. Jeff Alexander, R-Provo, said it's not likely that lawmakers will dip into the rainy day fund for anything, despite recent talk of using $3.9 million from the fund.

"I don't think it will happen," he said.

"You could go into almost any budget and use the same argument as public ed's using right now," Alexander said.

E-mail: kswinyard@desnews.com