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Lobbyist Money Help  

Released money not enough, superintendents say

December 15, 2003
By: Drew Bratcher
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY- Money released by Gov. Bob Holden to Boone County school districts has left superintendents thankful, but wanting more.

Columbia is set to receive the most of any Boone County school district, $2,155,138, while Sturgeon will receive the least, $49,550.

In November the governor released $75 million of the $197 million withheld from education in July. Schools receive the first installment of the money in December, and will receive the rest over the course of the year.

The majority of the money goes to schools that receive most of their funding from the state.

The released money did not stop the Columbia school district last week from joining more than 200 of Missouri's school districts in a lawsuit challenging the system used to distribute funds to schools.

Hallsville superintendent Thomas Baugh also supports the lawsuit. However, the Hallsville school board has tabled the issue twice.

"Even if the governor released all the money that he withheld, we're still not in good shape as far as funding for public schools," Baugh said. "There's going to have to be a remodeling of the revenue system for schools."

Hallsville is slated to receive $137,801. After the governor cut the state education budget by $197 million in July, Hallsville was left with a budget deficit of $90,000.

"This unexpected revenue will put us somewhere close to a balanced budget," Baugh said. The Hallsville school board is looking to upgrade the district's phone system, something that the district's budget included before July's withholdings.

Baugh said that projected revenue increases certainly brighten the horizon that the governor may release the rest of the money that's been withheld.

Carol Fischer, Missouri director of revenue, announced recently that state revenue collections are up by 5.6 percent for the year.

Bill View, the Harrisburg superintendent, is more pessimistic about the economic situation in the state.

"It's going to take a lot more than that a 5 percent increase to solve our budget woes," View said.

Harrisburg has a deficit of around $100,000 this year. The released money to Harrisburg, around $20,000 for the month of December, will slightly reduce that figure.

"It's just not going to have any huge impact on our district," View said. "I can't hire a teacher for $20,000, and we didn't let a teacher go for $20,000," View said.

While the Harrisburg superintendent believes that something more should be done to ease funding ills, View does not support the lawsuit aimed at revamping the state's system to fund local schools.

"I believe that the legislator's duties are to take care of those issues, and I don't think we'll need a lawsuit to get something done," View said.

The plaintiffs argue that the current foundation formula violates the Missouri Constitution because it does not provide enough money and does not provide equal education opportunities to districts across the state.

Centralia and Ashland schools are expecting around $100,000 of the released money. Glenn Brown, the Centralia superintendent said the money will help cut into the $300,000 deficit the school budgeted for this year.

"This better prepares us for what's coming next year," Glenn Brown.