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Lobbyist Money Help  

Schools get smaller increase under House plan

February 12, 2002
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1711

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri schools would get a smaller budget increase the next year, but a bigger funding boost in two years under a budget-crisis plan approved by a House committee Tuesday.

The change would mean that the state's public schools would get only a $175 million increase next fiscal year, $45 million less than under the current formula. The state provides more than $2 billion a year to local school districts.

Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said because funding is based on property values, the state is faced with a big jump every two years following county reassessments. Under his plan, those jumps would be averaged over two years.

Because counties recalculate rising property values once every two years, the state sees a spike in years like this one when those values are plugged into the formula. The amount the state pays to schools depends on the value of property, so when those numbers go up, so does state funding. Under the existing plan, that increase is about $220 million.

However in years where there is no property reassessment, funding increases are smaller, typically about $80 million. Graham's plan would average those two numbers.

"Eliminating the wild fluctuation would be helpful," Graham said. "If we pass this, we're $45 million closer to being able to fully fund it."

Graham said schools wouldn't be shortchanged because the following year's increase would be much larger than under the current plan. He estimated that instead of a $90 million increase, schools would get nearly twice that.

Chris Straub of the Missouri School Boards' Association, said his organization would support the bill as long as lawmakers decide to fully fund the new formula. Schools are willing to spread out increases if it makes it easier for the state to fully fund this year, he said.

Rep. Peter Meyers, R-Sikeston, voted against the bill and said whenever the legislature tries to fix the formula, it just ends up making matters worse.

"Everybody said out front that we're going to fully fund," Myers said. "Well this in an indirect way of not fully funding."

Graham said even if his bill passes, the $45 million savings will hardly make a dent in the budget.

"We're still in a massive fiscal hole," he said. "This doesn't solve it, but it helps."

The bill is expected to come before the full house later this week.