Superintendent submits thoughts on school funding

Friday, February 6, 2004

School districts across the state are in a state of uncertainty, as we try to project the budget situation for the upcoming school year.

During this past year, state funding was cut significantly and many districts in all parts of the state had to trim quite a bit from their budgets.

School people are now trying to lobby and follow the current legislative session closely in an attempt to get a decent handle on where school funding might be headed.

What might the outlook be for this year?

It is hard to get a good read on how much money might be available for schools and other public entities.

Some key legislative leaders have indicated that the economy has improved significantly and that there should be a significant amount of new money for schools this year.

On the other hand, people from the governor's office, as well as some financial analysts, have indicated that although the economic situation seems to be improving the state still has a serious revenue shortfall. Some of these folks have indicated that the financial picture for schools will be no better this year and could even be worse than last year.

It appears to be a guessing game as to how much money will be available and I guess that it all boils down to which figures one chooses to believe.

Took significant hit this year

This past year, due to state funding cutbacks and declining student enrollment, our district lost around $1 million in basic state aid.

Due to this, we made significant cuts in supplies, equipment and capital projects. We also eliminated some teaching and support staff positions to help make up for the revenue shortfall.

Release of some money

A couple of months ago, Gov. Bob Holden released around $74 million of the $210 million that had originally been withheld from Missouri schools.

This amounted to about $160,000 of additional revenue for the Marshall School District and, although the released revenue did help, it certainly didn't offset the large cut from last year.

We have a couple of things going for us

As we look at a year where more state funding cuts could be possible, we have a couple of things here in the Marshall district that could help us greatly.

First of all, our student enrollment is around 35 students greater than it was two years ago and over 50 students greater than last year. I mentioned the enrollment of two years ago because that is the enrollment number that we have been running through the state funding formula.

By using this year's increased enrollment number in the formula we should see an increase of around $140,000 in state revenue.

Another positive factor is the levy extension that was approved by district voters in November. As we stated earlier, by moving the 31 cents from debt service to the operating fund, we should generate around $370,000 of additional local operating revenue. Assuming that the state funding formula doesn't change, we should also receive an additional $700,000 of state revenue.

If the state revenue picture improves, these new sources of revenue should help us to be able to do some new things.

If the revenue picture remains gloomy, our additional sources of revenue will hopefully prevent us from having to make significant staff and program cuts as we did last year.