Office of Governor Gary Locke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 3, 1997
Contact: Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Savings Incentive Plan provides $54.5 million for schools in first yearOLYMPIA - Gov. Gary Locke today announced schools in Washington will soon see the first wave of technology improvements made possible by the initiative he launched earlier this year to support both technology in schools and school construction while improving state efforts to control costs.
The $19.6 million being sent to 145 school districts across the state will purchase new computers and other technological improvements. The projects are financed by a special fund, the new Education Savings Account, in which the state recently deposited $54.5 million. The funding comes from two sources - savings from lower than expected participation in a variety of state programs, and savings made in agency operations.
Locke created the Savings Incentive Plan to free up dollars for schools by ending the "spend it or lose it" mentality that encouraged agencies to make hurried purchases at the end of the fiscal year in order to avoid having to return all unspent funds to the general state treasury. Now agencies can keep half the unspent funds to improve their own operations through staff training, new technology, or other one-time measures, while the other half goes into the Education Savings Account.
"After just six months, this new initiative is already producing substantial dividends for public schools and creating new incentives for state agencies to save money," Locke said. "Everybody benefits under this new approach - school children, state agencies, and the taxpayers of our state."
The current state budget assumes that next year another $19.6 million will be available through the program for additional technology improvements, and that $12.6 million will be spent on school construction.
Modeled after a similar initiative Locke implemented as King County Executive, the Savings Incentive Plan this year will allow agencies to retain $7.2 million of the $14.4 million they saved through efforts to better manage costs in Fiscal Year 1997.
Under the new law approved by the 1997 Legislature, agencies must use their share of the money for initiatives that "improve the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of services to customers of the state" without incurring any ongoing costs.
The new Education Savings Account has received approximately $47.3 million due to lower-than-anticipated expenditures on entitlement programs, school enrollment, and other factors not directly tied to agency efficiency measures. All of this second category of savings now flows into the Education Savings Account, rather than being returned to the general fund.
Terry Bergeson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, called the new Education Savings Account good news for public schools. "This initiative by the governor and the Legislature is really a shot in the arm for public education in this state," Bergeson said. "The technology grants just released will allow schools to use technology in many forms to help increase student achievement in reading, writing, communication, math and science."
Bergeson said her office and the state Board of Education will discuss with the governor and the Legislature how to make the best use of any money received from the new account above the amount already budgeted.
Phil Bussey, president of the Washington Roundtable, an organization made up of Washington's leading businesses, applauded the program. "Businesses have always known the value of incentives for good performance," Bussey said. "So the Savings Incentive Plan is definitely a step in the right direction. The business community wants to see this emphasis on efficiency in government and educational improvement continue."
Locke said the program's early success is a very strong beginning. "I'm very pleased that the Savings Incentive Plan is working as intended," Locke said. "This is an important part of our plan to prepare Washington's schools for the 21st century."