COLUMBIA – At a Columbia School Board meeting Monday evening state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, told board members that all school districts in Missouri would be facing inevitable cuts for the next fiscal year.
After fiscal year 2009, the state’s overall budget was down $500 million. In 2010, the state’s budget will be down an additional $500 million, Schaefer said, resulting in a decrease of $1 billion in state revenue in just two years.
The last time the state faced a similar financial situation was in 2002 and 2003 when the state’s budget fell by $179 million and $285 million respectively.
“I hope everyone has an appreciation for how serious this situation is,” Schaefer said.
Linda Quinley, chief financial officer for Columbia Public Schools, said potential budget projections for the district include:
- flat state funding;
- a 7.5 percent decrease in state funding; and
- a 15 percent decrease in state funding.
"We are expecting between a 7 and 15 percent decrease in state funding," Quinley said.
Nothing is certain, but the district must be prepared for a significant decrease in state funding, she said.
Board members also heard a report on student achievement in conjunction with district goals that were put into place five years ago. Subcommittees are currently fine-tuning objectives for a new five-year plan so that it can be brought before the board at January’s meeting.
A public forum, held Dec. 3, received input from the community about district objectives.
Board member Ines Segert expressed concern regarding decreasing student state assessment scores since 2006.
Board member James Whitt said that action must be taken to improve the scores, otherwise the district could find itself in the same situation next year.
Belcher agreed. “The time to talk is over, it’s time to take action.”
The district's auditor, James McGinnis, also presented the auditor’s report for the district and told board members the financial report was as transparent as it could possibly be. He also congratulated the district for being one of very few districts in the state awarded the Certificate of Achievement of Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Certificate of Excellence. The certificates are issued by two separate organizations: The Government Financial Officers Association and the Association of School Business Officials.
Also at the meeting, board members voted unanimously to approve a resolution that would allow the Columbia School District to participate in the application process for the Race to the Top Fund. Race to the Top is a federal program that awards grants to states based on relationships with local education agencies that show innovations in one of four key areas:
- standards and assessments;
- data to support instruction;
- teacher and leader quality; and
- turning schools around.
By participating in the program, Columbia Public Schools could be eligible for a grant if Missouri is one of the states chosen to receive funding.
At the school board's next meeting, Jan. 11, 2010, board members will vote on the approval of a $120 million bond issue that might appear on the April 2010 ballot.