OLYMPIA -- The state may wait a day to pay public schools about $253 million this summer, and the schools would either have to do the same to their creditors or borrow money, as a way to make the budget balance at the end of the fiscal year.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee Thursday heard testimony Tuesday on what some regard as a budget gimmick, the shifting from June 30 to July 1 hundreds of millions of dollars for basic education, special ed, bilingual ed, transportation and other public school programs. Marty Brown, the Office of Financial Management director, called it "a wise thing to do at this point" and none of the members of the committee disagreed. The state would make cuts during the next two years to offset the payment.
Marie Sullivan, a lobbyist for school directors, said the state should allow the schools with cash flow problems to borrow from their own special funds to make necessary payments, so they don't have to borrow from counties and pay interest.
Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, was skeptical: "A one-day float and you need to borrow money? Can't you just not pay bills for one day?'
When Sullivan said some of the schools' make payments through automated accounts, Zarelli suggested the districts merely freeze accounts for one day. "I just don't see the problem here. It helps us get through to the next biennium without making painful cuts."