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Governor Herbert announces $242M surplus in education funding

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17 2013 4:56 p.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday that the state ended the 2013 fiscal year with a revenue surplus of $242 million — all in education funds.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah ended the 2013 fiscal year with an extra $242 million in revenue, all of which is headed toward schools, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday.

The revenue surplus is more than twice the $99 million surplus Utah saw at the end of the 2012 fiscal year. Of the $242 million, roughly $120 million will be transferred to the state's Education Rainy Day Fund, with $122 million in one-time money available for appropriation in the upcoming legislative session.

"Utah's steady economic progress is evident on several fronts — job creation, a dropping unemployment rate and additional revenues for the state," Herbert said in a prepared statement. "This surplus is not only encouraging, it's needed. We can now augment the critical investment we make in education and economic development."

But during Tuesday's meeting of the Executive Appropriations Committee, members of the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst told lawmakers the surplus may have been partly caused by individuals choosing to prepay their taxes in 2012 ahead of recent changes to federal taxation.

Bruce Williams, associate vice president for business and operations with the State Office of Education, said the surplus is good news, but educators are also aware that they may not be able to rely on a new level of revenue for education in the future.

"Part of it was clearly due to a tax change," Williams said. "We're hoping that it does bode for better economic times, but at this point we don't know."

Williams also said the money is limited to one-time appropriations and can't be used for ongoing costs such as teacher salaries, retirement or added expenditures related to the growth in student enrollment.

The Utah State Board of Education recently approved a tentative list of one-time spending recommendations that totals roughly $80 million, he said. Those recommendations include $10 million in school improvement funds to assist with the state's new school grading program; $20 million to replace old buses; and $30 million to move closer to a 1-to-1 student and technology ratio.

"I'm sure there will be proposals coming in from higher education as well concerning how this money should be used," Williams said.

The $120 million in added rainy-day funding brings the state's total rainy-day balance to $400 million, up from $277 million last year, according to figures provided by the governor's office.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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