February 5, 2004

Pessimistic Forecast Could See SCR-I Funding Cut By $475,000

Combine the state’s uncertain financial picture with the fact that it is an election year and you get a lot of schools concerned about education funding.

A large portion of the January 30 meeting of the Scotland County R-I School Board focused on the state funding issue.

A letter to the board from Dr. Chris Straub, Director of Intergovernmental Relations for the Missouri School Board Association, did not offer a lot of hope for 2004.

Dr. Straub pointed out that budget issues likely will once again dominate the upcoming legislative session.

“It appears likely the session will again be contentious,” Straub’s letter stated. “Because this is an election year, I suspect the differences between the Republican controlled legislature and the Democratic governor will be even more pronounced than in 2003.”

Missouri’s Office of Budget and Planning has predicted the state faces between $800 million and $1 billion in budget problems for fiscal year 2005, which begins in July.

Rep. Carl Bearden, chairman of the House Budget Committee indicated that he believes state revenues will grow in both fiscal year 2004 and 2005 to the extent that the budget shortfalls will be $300 million or less.

Dr. Straub noted that budget expectations remain uncertain with a variety of predictions such as these and told the board that the process likely will be confusing and difficult to follow as the state attempts to develop the budget upon which school funding hinges.

With the varying financial forecasts, Dr. Straub told the board that the most optimistic forecast would likely feature flat funding for schools as comparable to 2004. That means the formula calculation factors would be between 86 and 87 percent. For all those unversed in the foundation formula calculations, this would represent a decline in funding of approximately $124,000 for the Scotland County R-I District.

The most pessimistic report came from political consultant Jim Moody, the former commissioner of administration and budget director for Missouri. Moody’s report noted that if the projected fiscal year 2005 budget shortfalls are covered totally by withholdings public school funding could be cut by $565 million. The prospectus would drop the foundation proration factors as low as 70 percent.

If the funding falls that low, Scotland County R-I would stand to lose $475, 273 in funding.

“Please remember that all of this is based on ‘what-if’s’,” Dr. Straub said. “I still have difficulty believing that anybody, including the General Assembly and the Governor, wants to allow funding cuts to education as severe as the Moody forecast.”

Dr. Straub recommended that board members and educators continue to contact local legislators to try to help impact the funding decisions.

“Dr. Straub’s comments are indeed sobering to say the least,” stated Superintendent LeRoy Huff. “Schools can only hope that the bleak picture he portrays in his letter will not come to pass.”

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