Governor unveils FY 2017 budget with focus on education

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Gov. Gary R. Herbert unveiled his budget recommendations for the 2017 fiscal year on Wednesday, once again prioritizing Utah students and teachers with 70 percent of new money committed to education.

“Utah’s continued economic success and prosperity is dependent upon our education system,” Gov. Herbert said. “Education investments are critical in order to keep pace with Utah’s growing population.”

Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the nation, reaching three million residents last October. An additional 9,700 students are expected to enroll in Utah schools in FY 2017, which is enough to fill 380 new classrooms across the state.

The budget contains $422 million for public and higher education, bringing the total new money for education over the last five years to $1.7 billion.

It also includes a 4.75 percent increase ($130 million) in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), which is the main source of funding for public education. WPU funds are given to local school districts, which can then put the money where it is needed most. This includes teacher salaries, professional development, classroom technology and more. The proposed WPU increase amounts to approximately $206 more dollars for every Utah student.

The budget calls for $9.5 million in one-time funds for teacher supplies. It will also shift sales tax revenue$10 million in Fiscal Year 2017 and $50 million over the next 5 yearsto pay for early education intervention for at-risk children.

The governor received more than 300 requests from public, private, and nonprofit agencies asking for a combined $1.5 billion in new funds in his budget. While many of the requests were for noteworthy programs, it is important for government to be able to say no. Most of the requests did not survive the vetting process, which prioritizes programs by aligning available resources with the areas of greatest need. To prepare for expected growth, the state needs to invest funds strategically.

The $14.8 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 is balanced and contains no tax increases or new debt. It also pays off $350 million in existing debt, bringing the total debt paid off by the state over the last five years to nearly $1.5 billion.

Click here to read the full budget proposal.