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State Journal: Budgetary spin; Making up

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New Jersey voters approved 72 percent of local school district budgets in last month's elections, a significant improvement from last year's 51 percent success rate.

District officials, and the state groups that represent them, argued that the increased success rate was a signal from voters that they are doing a good job despite criticism by the administration of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman that the state has too many districts and that some of them have bloated bureaucracies.

"People looked at the budgets and were happy with them," said Frank Belluscio, the spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Mr. Belluscio noted that voters approved budgets in 80 percent of the districts that were penalized by the state earlier this year for exceeding state guidelines on non-instructional spending.

Meanwhile, state officials said that the annual budget elections, which are held in 550 of the state's 608 districts, reflect local issues and are not a referendum on state policies.

Peter Peretzman, the spokesman for the state education department, said it was ironic that last year local officials also blamed the lower approval rate on criticism from Governor Whitman.

"We'd like to think that some of the things we have done to make districts more fiscally responsible resulted in better budgets," he said.

A rosier-than-expected economic forecast has apparently allowed Gov. Bob Miller of Nevada and the superintendent of the state's largest school district to patch up their differences over the state's biennial education budget.

Mr. Miller and Brian Cram, who heads the Clark County school district, which includes Las Vegas, held a joint news conference last month as a sign of unity.

Earlier in the month, Mr. Miller had called a proposal from Mr. Cram for a new tax to help pay for schools "financial suicide for the state."

But now the Nevada Economic Forum is slated to release optimistic projections about revenue from state sales and gaming taxes, according to Mr. Miller's spokesman, Richard Urey. So the Governor has pledged to spend most of that money--perhaps about $30 million--on K-12 education.

"With emerging enhanced revenue," Mr. Urey said, "they were able to get together."

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