State budget for 2015 emphasizes education

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Herbert released his fiscal year 2014 budget recommendations at Utah Valley University on Wednesday, which calls for more than $260 million in new education spending. AP Photo.
Governor Gary Herbert released his fiscal year 2014 budget recommendations at Utah Valley University on Wednesday, which call for more than $260 million in new education spending. (AP Photo)

Gov. Gary Herbert announced his proposed state budget for 2015 on Dec. 4. The budget heavily emphasizes funding for education.

If the budget is accepted by state legislature, about half of it will go toward public education and about 15 percent to funding higher education.

“As we make our recommendations to the legislature, it does set our priorities,” Herbert said at the unveiling. “That’s what budgets do.”

Herbert said the emphasis on funding education will support his goal of 66 percent of Utahns having a post-secondary degree or professional certification by 2020.

According to Herbert, public schools are projected to grow by 10,300 students in 2015. Herbert has allotted $64 million to public education growth to help accommodate the new students for 2015.

Herbert announced a $2 million career counseling initiative to help improve graduation rates and college preparedness in Utah.

“This is a first step; we think there will be some evaluation,” Herbert said. “We think there are opportunities to expand the counseling here in the state of Utah.”

Much of the budget for higher education is for certain schools, with over half going to Weber State University for a new science building. Herbert also proposed that Snow College be given $1.5 million for a concurrent enrollment program and Utah College of Applied Technology receive $3.9 million to increase capacity.

Herbert announced at the unveiling a $1 million outcome-based performance program that will reward schools for better quality, increased retention and increased graduation rates.

Herbert’s proposed budget will not use any borrowed money in 2015. About 27 percent of the budget will come from federal funds, which is average over the past 10 years, according to Herbert.

“Utah has demonstrated historically the importance of being fiscally responsible,” Herbert said. “This is a year we also ought to not borrow any more money, and so my budget envisions no additional borrowing and no additional bonding.”

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