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State releases $83 million in public funds for education

Gov. Holden previously withheld the money
in a budget crisis.
Wednesday, December 3, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:30 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

The coffers of the Columbia Public Schools and the University of Missouri system received a surprise boost Tuesday.

Citing an unexpected influx of federal money, Gov. Bob Holden released more than $80 million to Missouri’s public schools and colleges — a little more than one-third of the roughly $220 million he withheld in July because of budget concerns.

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Holden’s administration said the Department of Social Services has received $83 million more than was budgeted from the federal government, freeing up existing money to go toward education. Amid heated partisan debate in recent weeks, Republican lawmakers have called upon Holden to release the money for another reason, saying improvements in the state’s economy — disputed by the governor’s administration — make the withholding unnecessary.

Holden said he would release $75 million to public school districts beginning this month, with all of that money passing through the formula that distributes basic state aid to schools.

Starting in January, $8 million will go to state colleges and universities, he said. The figures are in the same proportion as the amounts withheld from educational institutions earlier this year.

The exact amount coming to Columbia will likely be available in a few days, said Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent of Columbia Public Schools.

“The initial ($197 million withholding to public schools) affected us to the tune of about $2.7 million,” Cowherd said. “I would think we’re going to get a good portion of that replenished.”

While the money won’t affect current operations, Cowherd said it would help refill the district’s reserves, tapped earlier in the year.

“It will keep more money in the reserve fund and help us out in another year,” he said.

UM system president Elson Floyd, in a statement thanking Holden for releasing the money, said the system’s share “will be applied to hard-pressed academic programs and to support our students.” More specific plans were not yet available, system officials said.

Of the $25 million withheld from higher education in July, about $9.7 million came from the UM system. MU alone saw a cut of about $4.8 million.

The extra federal money results from a change in the Medicaid payment schedule to the state. The federal money originally was due to arrive next July or August — just after the June 30 end of the current fiscal year, Holden said. But officials in the state Department of Social Services persuaded federal officials to start phasing in the payments now.

The federal government has agreed to continue the earlier payment schedule in future years, meaning this year’s financial gain will not result in a loss next year, Holden said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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