MONTGOMERY — The state Board of Education on Thursday agreed to ask lawmakers for $408 million for the two-year college system in the next budget year.
Lawmakers who craft the state’s education budget said Thursday it’s too early to speculate how much money will be available for the fiscal year that begins in October, but one doubted the likeliness of such a large increase over this year’s $316 million for community colleges.
“We certainly value what the two-year-system does,” said state Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, chairman of the House committee that oversees the state’s education budget. “We should have some sort of funding increase available, but I can’t imagine it will be anywhere near 29 percent.”
Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the two-year system that includes Northwest Shoals Community College and Calhoun Community College, said Thursday the increase would only put the system, with its 25 schools, back to about 2008 level funding.
“We’ve sustained that decrease in the last four to five years,” he said.
The additional funding is also needed to carry out the system’s workforce development goals under the state’s new Accelerate Alabama plan, an initiative to increase economic development during the next three years, Heinrich said.
The funding request now goes to lawmakers in early 2013.
Love said he hadn’t yet heard from the state fiscal office or the governor’s office about what the state’s Education Trust Fund revenues might look like in 2014.
The Education Trust Fund has 10 tax sources, the largest being individual and corporate income tax, sales tax, utility tax and use tax.
“It is a little early to talk about increasing funding, or funding in general,” he said.
The education budget funds not only the two-year system, but K-12 education and public four-year colleges in the state.
On Thursday, the state board of education also approved asking for $4.1 billion in 2014 for K-12. That compares to $3.77 billion this year.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley said Thursday it is too early for his office to comment on specific budget requests.
State Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, chairman of the Senate education budget committee, said Thursday there is another item people will have to keep in mind when looking at the 2014 education budget: The $423 million the education fund borrowed several years ago from and still owes to the Alabama Trust Fund.
About $14 million was paid back in 2011 because of a small surplus when the 2012 budget year ended.
Love and Pittman in October said they expect to have about $180 million to $250 million left over at the end of this year to pay back the rainy day fund.
“That has to be made up between this year and next year,” Pittman said Thursday.
Mary Sell is the Montgomery bureau chief for the Times
Daily. She can be reached at mary.sell@TimesDaily.com.
*Does not include fees that may vary by college
Source: Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education