The potential override of Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Missouri House Bill 253, which deals with education spending, is a hot-button topic in Jefferson City with education organizations strongly opposing the override.
Earlier this week, data provided by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was given to the Missouri Association of School Administrators, breaking down the fiscal impact to individual school districts in the state should the bill become law. According to their numbers, Missouri schools would lose as much as $450 million this school year, plus $260 million annually if republicans in the General Assembly opt to override Nixon’s recent veto of HB 253.
Two local school superintendents are concerned, both claiming they are already operating under tight budget constraints.
Perry County School District 32 provides services for close to 3,000 children in the community. Newly appointed District 32 Superintendent Scott Ireland said the proposed cuts from the veto being overridden are unacceptable.
Based on projected funding for the 2014 fiscal year, Altenburg Public School District 48 would see a decrease in $19,634 should HB 253 become law and be completely phased in, a process that would take 10 years. The district could also lose up to $33,982 in state funding should the HB 253 veto occur and the federal government pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which allow states to collect a sales tax on Internet transactions. This would happen because the Missouri tax-cut bill provides for 0.5 percent reduction off the income tax rate if the federal law on Internet sales passes.
Perry County School District 32 would see a shortfall of $450,448 if the veto is overridden and a potential loss of $779,672 should the veto occur and Marketplace Fairness becomes law.
“I am definitely against the veto override,” Ireland said. “Schools are currently underfunded in the formula by $600 million. This additional cost will be potentially devastating to the education and the future of our children.
“Quite honestly, I can’t understand how any legislator could vote in support of such a bill.”
Ireland said the District 32’s administration makes fiscal responsibility a top priority, and looks several years into the future when outlining the school’s operating budget. The school currently operates on an annual budget of just over $20 million.
“The school board, administration, and staff of Perry County School District 32 are continually in the process of planning for the future needs of our students,” Ireland said. “I feel there is an importance to be fiscally responsible to the members of the community. This planning allows Perry County 32 to provide the best education for the children we serve. We plan for the immediate needs of the students as well as having a plan for five and even 10 years down the road.”
Bleau Deckard, superintendent of Altenburg Public District 48, reiterated similar sentiments. His small school serves more than 100 students, with an annual operating budget of $1.4 million. A cut of more than $20,000 would have a profound impact on the campus, he said.
“We support Gov. Nixon’s veto, and while we support cutting taxes and making things easier on businesses or individuals, I am not seeing enough data to back up that this is the best option,” Deckerd said.
“Neighboring states have taken similar steps with varying results, some negative and some positive. Our board and staff do a wonderful job conserving and cutting in the areas we are able. Obviously there are several areas we cannot make cuts, because we have no control over them, and that would be things like utilities, etc.
“If the veto were overridden, we would have to look at what areas include any room for wiggle-room. I think the area that would be hit the hardest would be staffing and that is detrimental to a small school. We take a lot of pride in providing a quality education with quality staffing, and to think that we may need to compromise in that area because of decisions in Jefferson City is disappointing.”
Deckerd said District 48 is already stretched thin without the latest proposed cuts.
“The past several years, we have already been working on a budget that is underfunded by the state,” Deckerd said. “Currently our foundation formula is funded at around 90 percent. To think that we will lose any additional funding, and still be asked to provide the services our community is accustomed to, is a scary scenario.”
Roger Kurtz, executive director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators, agrees with Deckerd and Ireland.
“The state is already failing to meet its obligations to Missouri schools,” said Kurtz. “How are local communities going to cope with the fiscal cliff created by HB 253? Their only options are to continue to cut programs for kids or raise property taxes to make up the difference.”
Nixon vetoed the Republican sponsored HB 253 in early June, calling the bill’s $800-million price tag a fiscally irresponsible experiment that would undermine the state’s economic and fiscal health and jeopardize funding for education and vital public services.
On Tuesday, republican lawmakers fired back, accusing Nixon of fear-mongering and using “worst case scenarios” to frame his argument against the tax cut package.
“The governor has consistently painted himself as a proponent of lowering our tax burden and allowing Missourians to keep more of their hard-earned dollars, but when push comes to shove he resorts to political stunts and fear mongering in an attempt to prevent a well-deserved tax cut for Missourians and Missouri businesses,” said Republican House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.
“Even more outrageous is the false choice the governor has fabricated that puts the tax cut against funding for education, and that he makes this weak argument while our state has a surplus in the hundreds of millions. Missourians need to be aware that they can benefit from a reduced tax burden without in any way jeopardizing the record levels of funding we continue to provide to our system of education.”
Missouri Legislatures’ veto session will convene Sept. 14. At that time, both chambers of the General Assembly will be asked 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.