Schools urged to prepare contingency plans as result of tax bill

Posted July 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) is urging every school district in Missouri to prepare contingency plans for the 2014 fiscal year as a result of a tax bill passed by the Missouri General Assembly in May. In response to that bill, Governor Jay Nixon announced his intention Friday, June 28, to withhold $400 million from the state budget, including $66 million from Missouri schools.

“School districts would rather know this information at the beginning of the school year rather than getting a surprise in mid-year,” said Roger Kurtz, executive director of MASA. “While it’s unfortunate it had to be done, Governor Nixon’s actions are financially responsible given the fiscal cliff that the Legislature has forced upon the state with passage of HB 253.”

Upon being notified of the governor’s withholding actions, MASA sent guidance to its members, nearly 95% of the superintendents in the state, informing them of the developments and urging them to begin creating contingency plans in the event that the Missouri House and Senate override Nixon’s veto of HB 253 in September. The guidance also emphasized that school districts should not panic at this time, but that they should begin preparing these contingency plans and sharing them with their communities.

“Districts should not panic at this point, because the funding to schools will likely be released if the veto of HB 253 is maintained. Districts need to be fully prepared for all possibilities,” added Kurtz. “This issue emphasizes the importance of sustaining the Governor’s veto of HB 253. It shows that HB 253 is an ill-conceived and irresponsible plan that hurts the state and our schools, while doing nothing to promote growth in our economy.”

Kurtz went on to emphasize that Missouri is already underfunding schools by $620 million and Missouri teachers are some of the worst paid in the country, ranking 46th in the U.S.

“When the folks at the Capitol can’t keep their fiscal house in order, the burden gets passed to schools to cut programs, lay off teachers and increase class size, or go to their local taxpayers to make up for the losses,” Kurtz added. “At some point our elected representatives in Jefferson City need to be responsible to the taxpayers and students of this state and live up to the promises they continually make but fail to live up to over time.”

The Legislature will reconvene on Sept. 14 for their annual veto session. At that time, both chambers of the General Assembly will be required to vote to override the veto of HB 253. A veto override requires 109 votes, or two-thirds of the 163 elected state representatives. The bill passed the House during the legislative session with 103 “Yes” votes. If the House votes to override the veto, the issue will then go to the Senate where 23 votes are required to override the Governor’s veto. The bill received 24 “Yes” votes in the Senate when it was approved during the legislative session.