Governor Chet Culver has ordered at one-and-a-half percent, across-the-board cut in the state budget. It amounts to a 33 million dollar reduction in general state aid to Iowa’s K-through-12 schools.
Dan Smith, executive director of the School Administrators of Iowa, says since the school year’s almost half over, superintendents have some tough choices to make.
"Coming, as it does, right at this time of year it means that this period over the holidays there will be some tough decisions that have to be made," Smith says. The governor says, as a result of the budget cuts he ordered, some state workers may be laid off or furloughed.
Superintendents don’t have the option of laying off teachers or other employees who’re working under a union-negotiated contract, so cuts must come elsewhere.
"It is not an option to reopen negotiated agreements. Salaries and contracts and those sorts of things in a school district are set for a one-year period," Smith says. "…In general, reductions will have to occur in non-salaried areas and I know that administrators will look to protect students and protect programs that impact students most directly."
Some school districts have some cash held in reserve, but Smith says in uncertain times, administrators are reluctant to dip into those savings accounts.
"We know that this isn’t a problem that’s just going to go away with just this action on the part of the governor, that we’re facing some longterm, difficult times in Iowa," Smith says, "and school superintendents, school administrators are aware that it’s a longterm problem and one that cannot be solved easily in just a few months."
Hospital administrators will also face some tough choices in the months ahead as the governor’s across-the-board cut hit the state’s Medicaid program.
Scott McIntyre of the Iowa Hospital Association says it appears the state payments to providers — hospitals, doctors and other health care providers — may be cut.
"Anything that gets cut (at the state level) also leaves us less to draw down from the federal government. We get that two-to-one match," McIntyre says, "so any dollars that are lost at our end means fewer dollars from the federal end as well." Medicaid provides health care coverage to the poor and disabled, a program which is financed — as McIntyre mentioned — by both the state and federal governments.