The Union School Board is closely watching several key bills in the current legislative session that could impact the district.
Superintendent Steve Bryant outlined the top items, including the budget introduced by Gov. Jay Nixon, as well as several tax cut bills.
“We’re really supporting the governor’s proposed budget,” Bryant said.
He added there is concern that legislators won’t be as favorable toward districts by not fully funding the foundation formula.
The state funding formula was created through the Missouri Legislature in 2005 and was developed to address adequacy in funding public school systems. It was designed to provide the funding necessary for an adequate education based on the spending practices of successful schools, also known as performance districts.
An additional concern is that tax bills will pass, which would negatively affect the district’s revenue stream.
Senate Bill 509 and House Bill 1295 are tax cut plans for individuals and small businesses that would reduce personal income taxes from 6 percent to 5 percent over the next 10 years.
Another bill, House Bill 1253 would reduce the corporate tax rate.
The Missouri School Administrators Coalition sent a memorandum to the Missouri General Assembly on what it believes will be the effects of the HB 1295 and SB 509 if they are passed.
The memo states that the fiscal impacts would be more “devastating.”
“Currently, the annual cost estimates of HB 1295 and SB 509 range from $509 million to $928 million according to the Legislature’s own fiscal analysis while the Missouri Budget Project projects these bills to annually cost the state $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion once fully phased in,” it reads.
The memo also says that state budgets are suffering because of drastic cuts to tax codes and that the bills stand to negatively impact state services, such as education.
It points out that Missouri schools are receiving $620 million less than the foundation formula requires to balance its budgets over the last four years and that Missouri has borrowed a total of $1.2 billion from classrooms to balance its budgets over the last four years.
“Missouri schools simply cannot absorb any additional cuts without more programs being cut or property taxes being increased,” it says.
Bryant noted that fully funding the foundation formula would make a $1.1 million difference in just the Union School District’s budget.
As the district works on its budget, Bryant said he plans to share what the school district would do with that funding if it were available. Some improvements would include replacing several buses, hiring additional staff to balance the student to teacher ratio and improving technology and equipment.
“We think it’s important to pinpoint things we could be doing with the funding because it helps people understand what we would use it for,” Bryant said, adding that the list will be fine tuned in the next several weeks.
Another concern in the legislative session is the transfer bill, which Bryant said would be an “additional drain on funding.”
“There’s only so much funding in the pie. There’s only so much revenue that can go into the education budget and if we continue to transfer kids like they’re doing, it’s going to be a continued strain on dollars,” Bryant said.
He said the educators coalition has proposed transfer suggestions that wouldn’t be as costly as the current bill.
Educators are working with Sen. David Pierce to get more provisions in any bill that might move forward.
“The top priority is to stop transfers and replace it with a system of supports and intervention to help improve the performance of a struggling school district,” Bryant said.
“We’re working to include more of these things. Instead of putting a Band-Aid on something we’re getting to the root of the problem and allowing kids to stay in their neighborhoods and parents to get involved in their child’s school district — rather than sending them somewhere else.”
Bryant said that educators are expected to be accountable for what they’re doing for kids, and legislators should be as well.
“I think there’s a sentiment out there that legislators need to be accountable for what’s best for kids too,” Bryant said.