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Missouri school districts prepare for possible budget cuts

January 28, 2003
By: David Bryan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Education Department Commissioner predicted that the education budget cuts proposed by the governor could force cuts in school personnel.

Gov. Bob Holden warned that nearly $260 million statewide would be cut from public school budgets if lawmakers did not approve a bond issue plan to borrow money within the next few weeks.

Schools will face an estimated 11 percent reduction in the amount of state funds that has been allocated for the budget year that ends June 30. About 35 percent of the average school district's budget comes from state funds.

Education Commissioner Kent King urged schools to have a plan ready in the event the school budgets are cut.

"I think there are some potential consequences that schools are going to have to deal with," King said. "They need to be making those plans so if the time comes, they have something ready to go."

King said personnel cuts did not necessarily mean layoffs -- that it could come from other actions such as salary reductions.

Both the Columbia School Districts and the Kansas City School Districts are currently looking at ways to deal with the possibility of a significant loss of funds.

In response to these possible budget cuts, the school board in Columbia, which is facing over $6 million in budget cuts, is proposing a 19 cent tax levy increase which will be voted on in April.

"To maintain the same quality of education that we expect in Columbia, we are going to have to do something to lessen the blow of these cuts," said Karry Crist, a Columbia School Board member.

The Kansas City School District, which faces a $17 million cut, the second largest in the state, is currently looking at ways to cut its budget in areas other than those directly relating to instruction according to Dr. Bernard Taylor, Superintendent of Kansas City School Districts.

"Any cuts that we make at this point, we're trying to make sure they are as far away from the students as possible," Taylor said.

Legislative leaders said they hope to avoid pulling funds from education.

"There are options and we need to be looking at those options instead of going first to education," said House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County.