ATLANTA — The next round of zero-based budgeting will focus heavily on education programs, from curriculum development and testing to the funding formula for every public school.
The state’s current fiscal year won’t end for two weeks, but agency officials are busy assembling details for the year after next. Summer is always when the agencies gather the data and compile their list of spending requests for the governor.
The fiscal year 2014 budget is different because it is the first under a new law signed by Gov. Nathan Deal mandating zero-based budgeting. Legislators have repeatedly passed similar bills that were derailed, including one vetoed by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Deal voluntarily shifted to zero-based budgeting last year for 10 percent of the state’s 370 programs, but he waded in with relatively small programs in the first round.
Zero-based budgeting calls for intensive examination of all aspects of government programs and their effectiveness. Usually lawmakers only consider the few programs recommended for increases or cuts while the bulk of the budget remains unexamined. Supporters see zero-based budgeting as a way to uncover waste and duplication.
The targets for the fiscal-year 2014 budget include 25 education programs, such as school nurses, nutrition, agricultural education and Regional Education Service Agencies, according to a list released by Deal’s office.
“Zero-based budgeting will most definitely be more labor intensive and time consuming, but with the cuts over the last several years, we have been reviewing the budget each year with heavy scrutiny,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. “Using zero-based budgeting this year will formally document much of what we have done these past few years.”
Ordinarily, the funding formula might be a giant project, but the Legislature already has it on its agenda. Two years ago, Deal appointed a commission of lawmakers, educators and citizens to review the formula. That commission is due to make its recommendations in time for the start of next year’s General Assembly.
Other programs coming up for the extra scrutiny are financial institution supervision at the Department of Banking & Finance, fire safety at the Insurance Department and license issuance at the Department of Driver Services.