State considers Rainy Day Fund for schools (KTUL)

By Kimberly Jackson 

The Governor and Republican leaders want Oklahoma to tap into the Rainy Day Fund, to help schools and prisons survive budget cuts, for the last part of this fiscal year.

The fund would provide $78 million dollars, $51 million going to schools. David Blatt of the Oklahoma Policy Institute says the Rainy Day Fund assistance is the right thing to do right now.

“It is pouring out there and we are basically, with the Rainy Day Fund, we are putting up a somewhat flimsy umbrella that is going to keep some of the worst of the rain, but we are getting soaked,” said Blatt who monitors public policies and legislation.

Blatt says the fund, which started in the 80s could provide a temporary fix.

“The way it works is that in years where revenue collections exceed projections, the surplus money goes into the Rainy Day Fund up to a certain maximum,” said Blatt.

Last year the fund peaked at $535 million, and the state tapped in during the budget crisis. And now, lawmakers say they are going to use more, to help schools finish this school year.

Dr. Deborah Gist says Tulsa Public Schools would appreciate any relief.

“It will help us but it doesn’t make the problem any If anything a little bit smaller and we are grateful for that because at this point anything. We look forward to and would welcome and would be helpful,” said Gist.

The superintendent says while the legislature considers the Rainy Day assistance, the district is focused on future cuts and the possibility of more cuts, this year. She has already outlined the costs of athletics, transportation and a four-day school week—as possible savings.

“We are working on a survey to send to our community. We are thinking about having some forums,” said Gist who plans to enlist the community’s help in making decisions.

Blatt says.. there should be about $220-million to take care of rainy days for next year but he says the clouds of the financial crisis might linger for years.

“Unless they get serious real soon, putting more recurring revenues on the table, we are just going to be limping from month to month, year to year,” said Blatt.

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