Funds easing school budget woes

Thursday, December 11, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Poplar Bluff, Jackson and Sikeston school districts were the biggest area beneficiaries of Gov. Bob Holden's recent decision to release $75 million he had previously withheld from the public education budget.

Area school officials say the action has eased -- though not necessarily eliminated -- the need to deficit spend this year and should allow some districts to carry slightly stronger budget reserves into the next fiscal year. However, they remain concerned about long-term financial health.

Jackson is getting the second largest cut among Southeast Missouri districts with $383,111.

"That's a stronger number than we had initially anticipated," said Ron Anderson, the Jackson superintendent.

But with an earlier state funding cut of $1.4 million, Anderson said that still leaves the district $1 million short.

Ten other Southeast Missouri districts will get six-figure shares of the released money, which accounts for roughly one-third of the nearly $200 million Holden withheld from public schools in July as part of his effort to bring the overall state budget into balance.

Districts that rely more heavily on state money are receiving comparatively large portions of the newly available funds. Those such as the Cape Girardeau public schools that get most of their revenue locally are getting relatively little.

More than 200 schools districts are planning to file a lawsuit next week claiming the state has provided inadequate education funding that is unfairly distributed in violation of the Missouri Constitution. Jackson, Dexter, Kennett, Sikeston, Scott City and Poplar Bluff are among the dozens of Southeast Missouri school systems that have signed on as plaintiffs.

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