By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald
Reacting to a request for state agencies to trim their budgets by an additional 2.5 percent, Central Texas lawmakers said Wednesday no state agencies will be safe from cuts, including education.
"We're going to cut the fat, cut the muscle and likely we're going to get into the bone," state Sen. Troy Fraser, District 24, said.
The cuts would be on top of about $1.2 billion in spending reductions already made this year. The additional spending cuts were proposed Monday in a letter signed by Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House
Speaker Joe Straus.
District 54 Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock said an unexpected drop in sales tax is part of a larger shortfall that could total between $15 billion and $28 billion. Not much will be known of the exact amount until January when Texas Comptroller Susan Combs presents her two-year revenue forecast.
What is known is that budget cuts for agencies will mean changes across the board in government services, including education, which currently takes up about half of the state's budget, Rep. Ralph Sheffield, District 55, said.
"Part of that's (grades) one through 12, as well as college," Sheffield said. "We gotta have an educated work force. We gotta be very cautious that those cuts not only don't affect our students, but our administrations."
Sheffield said some school administrations could be "slashed" or combined, noting there are 10 school districts in Bell County alone.
"There's so much of an overlap that's required in some of those administrations. ... What's another two or three schools?" he said. "You look at Temple ISD; they're probably half the size (of Killeen ISD), but there's lots of little schools like Rogers and Academy and Holland. I think one reason why they have them separate right now is because they want to protect their own property tax, because schools kind of set their own property taxes."
While many school districts sit on large sums of money, they continue to ask for more from the state, Sheffield added.
"The things that are going to be affected more than anything else will basically be community colleges, and of course, (Texas A&M University-Central Texas) probably won't see as much funds as they would in a good time," Sheffield said.
Fraser said Fort Hood and its schools probably won't be affected because they are federally funded.
The shortfall also was caused by declines in federal revenue, matching funds for Medicaid, and oil and gas revenue.
Getting 85,000 new students and an increasing state population have also stressed government resources, Aycock said.
"It's going to be a detailed exercise in agony, I guess," Aycock said. "It's how to best describe it."