Education the Next Target for Zero-Based Budgeting; Deal's New System Is Labor-Intensive, Time-Consuming, State Officials Say

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Byline: Walter C. Jones

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, and yet agency officials are busy assembling details for the year after next. Summer is always the time 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 that Gov. Nathan Deal signed mandating zero-based budgeting. Legislators have repeatedly passed similar bills that got derailed again and again, including a veto 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 go-round.

Zero-based budgeting calls for intensive examination of all aspects of government programs and their effectiveness. It's different from how most of the budget is reviewed because usually lawmakers only consider the few programs recommended for increases or cuts while the bulk of the budget remains unexamined. Supporters see it as a way to uncover waste and duplication. …