Missouri capitol building in Jefferson City.
COLUMBIA — On Monday night, Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) told the Columbia Board of Education that more cuts to the state budget seemed certain, and that the steep decline in state tax revenues would likely affect funding for public schools.
“I don’t know the public really has a full understanding of how difficult of a budget situation we’re in,” he said.
According to Schaefer, who is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, general tax revenues were down 6.9 percent for fiscal year 2009 and are down 10.8 percent for the current fiscal year. The percentage declines translate to about a $500 million revenue loss in fiscal year 2009, and at least another $500 million by the end of this fiscal year.
The state last saw such a decline during fiscal years 2002 and 2003, when the state’s general revenue fell $463 million for both years and then rebounded, Schaefer said.
Schaefer said that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has this year requested $105 million in order to fully fund the amount of money that the state promises each year to local school districts.
Jan Mees, board president, asked whether there would be any more state withholdings from the budget.
There likely would be, Schaefer said. He said that Gov. Jay Nixon’s cuts seemed to be based on the expectation of a 4-percent decrease in revenues for the year, but pointed out that revenues will likely fall short even of that decline. The state seems poised for a 7-percent decrease for the current fiscal year, he said.
“What can we as a school board do other than to continue to lobby our legislators?” asked district Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley.
So far, Schaefer said, the best testimony given during the senate appropriations hearings came from experts who knew how money could be spent the most effectively. Also, he said, school districts should show legislators how they have already cut their budgets.
Schaefer said that for him personally, K–12 education and higher education are priorities when drafting the state’s budget.
But, he said, “I don’t think that anybody should be under the illusion that these cuts aren’t going to be painful, because I think that they’re going to be very painful for people. Our job in the General Assembly is to make sure that the cuts that are going to be made are the least negative and the least harmful cuts that can be made.”
Andrew Guevara is a student at the University of Missouri–Columbia.