CPS Has Sudden Budget Excess
The school board held a special session Thursday to discuss the future of the district's budget.
The board's Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley says the board now has an excess for this year and for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year. Quinley said the Columbia School Board is planning on using this excess money as a safeguard in case the state makes future cuts to the budget.
If the board does not end up needing the money as a safeguard against state cuts, it may raise teacher salaries. Columbia Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher said nothing has been decided yet. If the state doesn't make more cuts, then the board would have to meet and approve a plan first, before choosing where to spend the money.
Belcher believes the state will end up making more cuts after Governor Nixon said he hoped to cut $350 million more from the state budget.
"We're getting a sense he wants to protect K-12 and higher education, but still, $350 million is a lot to cut," said Belcher.
The Missouri State Teachers Association, or MSTA, is working closely with the board to negotiate their wants. Laura Sandstedt is the President of the Columbia MSTA, and stressed how closely they are working with the school board.
"They are 110% committed to operating salary schedules and getting all staff pay in line with where it belongs," said Sandstedt.
Sandstedt is also a teacher at Ridgeway Elementary School in Columbia. She recommends the board to not end the salary freeze unless the board has the adequate funds to do it. Sandstedt fears prematurely unfreezing the salaries could result in creating a deficit that results in lost jobs and an even longer freeze.
Belcher also mentioned that if the local economy takes a positive turn, it would be more likely the board could allocate excess money to raising teacher salaries. He said the recent announcement of IBM coming to town could be one of the solutions to improving local economy. Belcher said by increasing the size of the private sector, the local economy would experience a greater boom.
Quinley said there is no exact amount of excess money yet.
The meeting was held this week because the state has now adopted its budget.