Schools will open in spite of withholdings

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Withholding state funding is a common practice in Missouri, and it has been for years. After the legislature passes budget bills and after those bills are signed by the governor, a portion of the appropriated funds are held back and can't be spent. This is a safeguard against unanticipated dips in revenue.

Typically, governors in recent history have automatically withheld 3 percent of all appropriations. If, later in the fiscal year, there is ample money to fund all of the state budget, the withheld money is released and can then be spent. But if the state is short on revenue, the money never reaches the agencies and programs it was intended for.

When the economy is good, there is generally enough state revenue to fully fund the budget by the end of the fiscal year. But the economy hasn't been good the last three years. In addition to the normal 3 percent withholding this year, Gov. Bob Holden has withheld another $250 million, because he thinks state revenue won't be as high as legislative estimates.

Particularly hard hit by these withholdings this year are public schools and higher education. But, because withholdings are normal even in good years, most school districts and state colleges and universities routinely plan for the possibility they won't get as much funding as budgeted. In addition, school districts and state colleges and universities also routinely maintain reserves. This will be a tight budget year, but planned withholdings and reserves will keep schools open.

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