LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Department of Education will need to cut $20.5 million in spending under a budget reduction order issued by Gov. Matt Bevin's administration Thursday.

The order calls for $158 million in cuts throughout state government and comes in response to a projected $156 million revenue shortfall in the current General Fund budget, according to estimates passed earlier this month by a group of state-appointed economists known as the Consensus Forecasting Group.

Of the $126.6 million in executive branch reductions required in the last six months of fiscal year 2018, KDE will be required to cut $20.5 million from its $4.1 billion budget. That's the second-highest total among state agencies, behind only the $69.6 million in cuts required from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The agency's operations and support services budget will be trimmed by $943,300 while $19.6 million will come from its learning and results services budget, according to the order. 

KDE's largest budget item, $3 billion in funding for the state's public school districts, is untouched in the reduction order. 

However, officials warned in a news release that modest revenue growth projected in the upcoming two-year spending cycle combined with increased budgetary needs for public pensions and the state's share of Medicaid will make protecting school funding and other areas typically shielded from cuts "difficult, if not impossible."

"There is just not enough revenue to satisfy all of the funding needs," the release from State Budget Director John Chilton's office reads.

The $20.5 million cut for KDE, which has a $4.1 billion budget in the current fiscal year, is far less than the $69.5 million sought by the Bevin administration in September, when state revenues were projected to come up $200 million short of budgeted amounts and the governor wanted to add $150 million to the state's Budget Reserve Trust Fund.

The ordered reduction in the agency's budget is also less than the $22.9 million in cuts that Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt proposed in response to the Bevin administration's September request.

It's unclear exactly how the agency will trim $20.5 million from its current spending and what impacts those reductions will have.

KDE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. State offices were closed in observance of the New Year's holiday.

Pruitt, in a Sept. 26 online seminar explaining his $22.9 million proposed budget reductions to superintendents, said KDE's plan at that time called for spending cuts on textbooks, professional development, grants and operations at its Frankfort office.

A copy of the budget reduction order can be read here: 

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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