Here it is, in its entirety. Don’t be afraid. Click the link. It’s a PDF. Look at it. It’s Governor Bentley’s recommended budget for expenditures from the Education Trust Fund (ETF).
What does it say? Let’s get familiar with the layout first.
You’ll recognize the column on the left (Column A), as it is simply a listing of the agency or function within an agency on which money will be spent.
Column B, the FY2012 ETF Appropriation. FY2012 is short for Fiscal Year 2012, which is the year we are currently in. It began October 1, 2011, and ends September 30, 2012. ETF is Education Trust Fund. Appropriation is how much money is allowed to be spent. This is the column showing our current year’s budget.
Column C, the FY2013 ETF Budget Request. FY2013 represents the year October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013. This column represents the amount that has been requested by the agency. Where you see “0”, this is an agency that either didn’t send a request (which would be strange) or was previously funded by the General Fund. [The Governor is taking some flak over his proposal to use education monies on non-education activities.]
Column D, the Governor’s Recommendation FY2013 ETF Appropriation.
Column E, $ Difference FY2013 Recommendation to FY2012 ETF Appropriation (Column D minus Column B).
Column F, % Inc/Dec ETF Governor’s Recommendation to FY2012 ETF Appropriation (percentage change from Column D to Column B).
If you’re like me, as you wander down the names on the left side of the page, you begin to ask yourself, “what does that agency have to do with education? I thought we only paid for schools out of the ETF (yes, you’re using acronyms now because you are informed).”
Well, look at this as an opportunity to familiarize yourself with what your education tax dollars do, in fact, pay for here in Alabama. Decide for yourself if you believe that what our legislators and governor spend our money on is, in fact, what you want them to spend our money on. Ask questions of your state legislators. Ask them to explain why certain agencies or projects are funded through the ETF. They should be able to explain it since they are the ones who approve and are therefore responsible for the expenditures themselves.
One of the most interesting (and easy-to-understand) portions of the budget is on the last page of the budget. The split between K-12, Higher Education, and Other is shown.
|FY2012 ETF Appropriation||FY2013 ETF Budget Request||FY2013 Governor's Recommended ETF Appropriation|
So, what does it say? Not sure what it says about the state’s priorities, but it does say something. In fact, all of these numbers say something. It’s up to each of us to interpret what those numbers say and whether those numbers are acceptable to us.
Budgets and their resulting appropriations are the tools through which the state’s agenda gets done. Our elected legislators can say whatever they want about their individual and collective priorities. The budget that is ultimately adopted is clear and unambiguous about what, in fact, those priorities actually are.
Don’t start memorizing any of these numbers, though, because you can rest assured that these numbers will get debated and picked over and changed probably multiple times before the final budget is adopted. But at least we know where the governor’s priorities are now.
Make no mistake, this is going to be a tough budget year. The General Fund (which funds everything other than education up until now) is facing deeeeep cuts. Reaching a consensus that satisfies everyone will be impossible. How will this be resolved? Stay tuned.
NOTE: Alabama has two main budgets: the General Fund and the ETF. Both the General Fund and the ETF can be found here, along with Director of Department of Finance, Dr. Marquita Davis’ presentation to the legislature.