Over $209 million will be cut from this year’s state budget, Gov. Mike Parson announced Monday, with the bulk coming from education.

Of these budget withholdings, $131 million will be cut from elementary and secondary education, and $41 million will be cut from higher education.

“You could have never imagined that this is where we’ll be today,” Parson said of the state’s dire financial straits. “But we’ve had to face the reality of the situation and make some extremely difficult decisions regarding our state budget.”

Monday’s budget cuts, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will only affect the 2020 fiscal year, which ends June 30. Parson and other state officials have said more cuts could be coming when the new financial year starts July 1.

The majority of the cuts to K-12 education will affect the state’s payments to schools, Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said. While this will result in a 39% decrease in funding, Vandeven said that there is an additional $187 million in federal funding available through the CARES Act and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

Individual districts must apply for this funding. Vandeven said that almost half of Missouri’s districts and charter schools have done so, with roughly $16 million already distributed.

This funding is flexible and can be used for expenses related to COVID-19 dating back to March 13, said Vandeven.

“We are embarking upon historic budget shortfalls, and we remain hopeful that they are temporary as our economy begins to recover,” Vandeven said. “To our Missouri families, we will continue to educate our children. The cost of not doing so is too great.”

Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said next year’s budget assumptions have taken potential state cuts into consideration. The budget hearing for the upcoming school year will be held Wednesday.

Baumstark said CPS has not applied for additional federal aid but that the district has discussed doing so.

The higher education cuts mean the money that four-year institutions should have received from the state in June will not be sent, said Zora Mulligan, state Commissioner of Higher Education. No details were available Monday as to how much of the lost revenue comes from the UM System and the Columbia campus.

The UM System will lose $18.6 million, and the MU campus will lose $9.7 million, university spokesperson Christian Basi said. With these latest cuts, the overall loss to the system this year is $52 million, and $27 million for the MU campus.

“We understand that the state of Missouri continues to experience a very challenging financial situation and that our elected officials are doing everything they can during this time,” said Mun Choi, University of Missouri System president, in a statement. “Working together, we have taken significant actions for the past few months that will mitigate the impact of this latest announcement.”

MU has taken several steps to address budget shortfalls due to COVID-19. As of Monday, MU has laid off 83 employees and furloughed 1,683, reduced salaries of 1,572 and not renewed the contracts of 33.

Future financial adjustments are also possible, according to previous Missourian reporting, including increased tuition, consolidating administrative duties and eliminating non-essential roles.

“We remain focused on having in-person operations in the fall and keeping the University of Missouri the strong, public institution that Missourians rely on to educate the future leaders of our state and nation,” said Choi.

Basi said Monday that the university will continue to make additional financial adjustments to specifically account for the loss of funding through June.

Next year’s state budget was narrowly passed when lawmakers returned for the 2020 legislative session after a break for social distancing at the height of COVID-19 concerns. Lawmakers stripped $700 million from Parson’s initial FY2021 budget proposal, while avoiding a 10% cut to education funding, dependent on future federal assistance.

While federal aid provided higher education institutions relief for the short-term effects of COVID-19 in the spring, such as access to Wi-Fi and other technology, little could be used for other needs. Mulligan said that additional federal funding could help mitigate this loss, if it becomes available.

Parson has said that the state will continue to evaluate the budget moving into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, has voiced his concern that the budget passed for FY2021 was based on an assumption of more federal aid being sent to states in the future.

“Without additional federal aid coming down to the state of Missouri by the end of this month,” said Kendrick, “I suspect there will be very significant withholds coming in on July 1 or shortly thereafter.”

In addition to budget cuts from education, Parson also made cuts to the Office of Administration, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Social Services.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Assistant city editor for the public health and safety beat. I am a second year graduate student studying public policy journalism. You can reach me at mne275@umsystem.edu or on Twitter @MikaylaEasley

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