Gyeonggi can’t afford free school lunches

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Gyeonggi can’t afford free school lunches

The Gyeonggi Provincial Government will scrap its subsidiary for free school lunches because it can’t afford them, the first local government to pull the plug on the program.

The provincial government said it will be able to save 86 billion won ($77.2 million).

In a statement Thursday on its 2014 budget, the Gyeonggi government said it will cut spending on other investments, such as infrastructure and aid programs for affiliated organizations, to save 513.9 billion won more.

The provincial government’s 86 billion won spending on school lunches accounted for 12 percent of the 713.2 billion won free-meal budget.

The other 88 percent of the budget is shared by the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education and local governments, such as district offices and county offices in the province.

The Gyeonggi government, headed by Gov. Kim Moon-soo, claimed the decision was inevitable because enormous budget deficits were predicted if spending wasn’t cut.

“We expect to still have a 100 billion won deficit next year, which will be covered by issuing local bonds,” said Kim Dong-gun, director at the Gyeonggi government’s budgetary office.

Gyeonggi’s tax revenues are expected to drop 300 billion won next year, in part due to a reduction in an acquisition tax rate, which includes real-estate purchases, proposed by the Park Geun-hye government. Provincial governments share that tax.

Local elections scheduled for next June will cost the Gyeonggi government 30.3 billion won.

Gyeonggi’s bold move to cut back on spending is expected to have ripple effects on other local governments.

“We understand the tough situation Gyeonggi is in,” said Kim Sang-han, a budget planning officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

“We will also trim down unnecessary spending, but it will be hard to cut spending on welfare programs.”

BY CHOI MO-RAN, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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