Oklahoma finance officials have announced an additional $235 million in cuts amid the slump in oil and natural gas prices, saying schools, prisons and other state agencies will have their budgets slashed by 7 percent for the rest of the year.
Public schools alone will have nearly $110 million cut from their budgets for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger ordered the cuts, warning lawmakers about the seriousness of the state's finances. Lawmakers are facing a $1.3 billion budget hole for the upcoming fiscal year, which Doerflinger says could result in cuts "right through the bone."
Collections from every major source of revenue in Oklahoma have fallen short of projections amid a slump in oil and gas prices, prompting the mid-year reductions.
Doerflinger issued the following statement:
“These midyear cuts are already into the bone at some agencies, and next year’s cuts may go right through the bone unless serious actions are taken. The governor and legislative leaders recognize the severity of the situation and are working on solutions, but I’m convinced there are still rank and file legislators who have yet to grasp the seriousness of the challenge at hand. This deepened cut isn’t pleasant and should serve as a reality check and call to action for anyone who thinks this problem fixes itself with short term budget gimmicks. This is a long term problem that will require tough, long term solutions.”
Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, issued the following statement about the budget cut announcement:
“Today’s budget announcement means schools will lose another $93 per student – a total of $158 less per student than schools budgeted for at the beginning of the year.
Now is the time to get serious about a long-term funding plan for public education that will ensure a high-quality education for Oklahoma’s nearly 700,000 public school students.
Students and their families deserve a commitment from state policy leaders to halt conversation around new mandates, vouchers and any other policies that will add costs or divert resources away from public schools.
Our per-student education investment in Oklahoma is dead last in the region and one of the worst in the country. We have a historic teacher shortage, class sizes are increasing and schools are cutting courses. Simply put, our classrooms are in crisis.
Education isn’t a partisan issue. The budget decisions looming over the next few months will affect our children, our communities and our state for years to come. There’s no margin for error. We must work together to protect our students and their education."
Rob Neu, Superintendent for the Oklahoma City Public Schools District, released the following statement,
“Today’s news is devastating for students and education in general. This round of revenue failure will have an additional budgetary impact of $2-million for the Oklahoma City Public School District. We will continue to deplete our fund balance this fiscal year since those funds have been budgeted and spent. OKCPS will put forward our best efforts to make strategic reductions, and do everything we can to financially protect our classrooms as we prepare for next school year. But these cuts only deepen the reductions we will need to make in the 2016-17 school year. I am urging legislators to drop everything and focus on fixing the structural issues related to the budget, and the cyclical impact that the volatile oil and gas industry has on the state’s budget. Let’s not act surprised next time, this has got to be fixed.”