Governor warns of school withholdings

By Hannibal Courier-Post
Posted: May. 26, 2020 8:47 am

HANNIBAL | Public school superintendents from around the state of Missouri were told Wednesday by Gov. Mike Parson to expect the withholding of state funds within a week to 10 days.

The news was shared Wednesday morning during a conference call conducted by the governor and involving superintendents from across the state. Among those participating in the call was Hannibal School District Superintendent Susan Johnson.

“He was giving us a heads up,” she told the Hannibal Board of Education during its Wednesday night virtual meeting. “It was tough to hear, but I do appreciate him sharing it personally.”

The upcoming withholding will not be the only one. Johnson quoted the governor as saying “more (withholdings) will be coming in the next fiscal year.” Missouri's next budgetary year begins on July 1.

The state's fiscal picture has changed dramatically since the start of the 2020 calendar year. In January revenues were up almost 2.5%.

“Unfortunately COVID hit and that has changed the tables dramatically,” Johnson said, quoting the governor as reporting that state revenues are now down approximately 11.3% and are forecast to be down approximately 7% in the upcoming fiscal year. Superintendents were also advised that unemployment in Missouri is about 15% while retail sales are down approximately 16%.

According to Johnson, the governor said the state legislature has been very supportive of K-12 education.

“I think their decision making up to this point very much reflects that,” she said. “It is going to be a tough time, not just for public education, but for everyone.”

The governor was asked about the possibility of another wave of federal cash. Parson told the superintendents that based on what he has been told the chances of more federal money coming to the Show Me State is 50-50 at best.

“It is kind of a wildcard,” Johnson said. “We can be hopeful. Anything like that would be helpful.”

Johnson said the message that the governor gave to superintendents was to “be prepared to live very, very conservatively” in the foreseeable future.

“We are not strangers to living conservatively. We know how to do that well,” Johnson said. “We know how to do it well without impacting kids as much as we possibly can.”

According to Johnson, the fiscal footing of the Hannibal School District is solid.

“Right now I think we are trending really well,” she said. “We are holding our own and will continue to do so.”

Another conference call involving the governor and school superintendents is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2.

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