GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Facing historic shortfalls, Governor John Hickenlooper announced his plan Tuesday to balance the state budget -- which includes slashing $375 million from K-12 education.
Ultimately it will be up to the State Legislature to pass a final budget, but in a report sent to the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday, Governor Hickenlooper asked lawmakers to make $570 million in cuts and eliminate 263 full time positions with the state.
The plan calls for a $375 million reduction in funding to school districts across the state. That translates into a loss of about $500 per student for next year.
This comes on the heels of a $260 million cut for this year.
Officials say K-12 education makes up 41 percent of the state's budget -- the largest chunk of change it spends each year.
The report cites two major reasons for the increase in cuts this time around. First, stimulus money that helped backfill cuts the state made last year is no longer available. Second, decreasing property values have caused school districts to lose $117 million in property tax revenues. Hickenlooper says that's money the state can't afford to backfill.
"I think public education is the greatest anti-poverty program there is," said Hickenlooper. "But at a certain point if you don't have the money you can't keep spending it, no matter how worthy the purpose."
Higher education, human services, and Medicaid saw reductions as well. The Governor's plan also calls for closing a state prison on the Front Range, "repurposing" four state parks, and reducing local grants.
Another major component is restoring a four percent budget reserve, which equates to 14 days of operating funds for the state.