SIKESTON -- An unclear message from the state has left local educators a little baffled about the distribution of the recently released funds for education.
On Tuesday, Gov. Bob Holden announced that he would release $75 million to school districts beginning in December and $8 million to colleges and universities starting in January as a result of an infusion of federal reimbursements.
And while area school officials said they will welcome the extra funds they receive later this month, many are wondering how much they will get -- and for how long.
"I've been talking to several other superintendents today, and we're all wondering how the payments are going to work," said Scott County Central Superintendent JoAnne Northern Thursday. "We don't know if we're going to receive a payment in December only or if it will be spread out until the end of the (fiscal) year."
Jim Morris, director of public information for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), said he could understand where the confusion could take place.
"The initial statement (from DESE to superintendents) read that this (released funds) will be distributed in the December payment, but it should have read it will begin with the December payment," Morris emphasized.
Bret Fischer, state budget and policy analyst in Jefferson City, said the extra money school districts receive this month will be run through the foundation formula.
"Basically DESE will look at what schools should have gotten up to this point and apportion that amount in the December payment to catch them up. Then, thereafter, districts will receive it in monthly payments," Fischer explained.
Districts will not get all of this money at once, Morris agreed. The amount based on the formula calculation that DESE does to determine state aid that the school districts will receive for the year is broken down into 12 payments over the course of the year, he explained.
So the new $75 million will be plugged into that calculation now, and the net effect will be that with the December payment when school districts will receive about one-half of their annual allocation, Morris said.
"In practical terms, the December payment will be making up for funds from August through November," Morris said. "From January through June, districts will receive the rest of their payments."
On Tuesday, DESE e-mailed superintendents an estimate of what the new proration factors for the formula are, and they're 1.5 points higher than what they've previously been, Morris noted.
School officials have access online and through a formula calculation so they can estimate what they're payments will be, Morris pointed out.
"If they plug in the right numbers, they should be able to get a very close figure about what the payment will be," Morris explained.
DESE officials are still working on the December calculations, but each district should be at a relative ease about how this is going to affect them, Morris said.
Based on DESE's projections, Northern estimated Scott County Central would receive between $30,000 and $40,000.
Sikeston Public Schools Sikeston Public Schools Director of Businesses Services Lori Boardman said the released funds could possibly mean a little over $200,000 for the district.
"It really doesn't change our outlook. We'll graciously take the money, but continue to be on guard. With the foundation formula not funded at 100 percent, we know things can change, depending on proration factors," Boardman said.
Charleston R-1 Superintendent Kevin Miller said Wednesday he didn't know an exact amount Charleston will receive. Schools are suppose to receive the extra funding in their next payment coming Dec. 22, he said.
Holden cautioned that while this money temporarily provides some help for Missouri schools this year, it in no way helps out schools next year.
"While this is good news for school districts throughout the state this year, it in no way solves the basic budgetary challenge we continue to face in 2004 and that we will face in 2005," Holden said in a released statement Tuesday.
Every little bit helps, but it's not anything massive, Northern said. It doesn't make up for the amount schools have lost compared to the cuts they've experienced, she said.
"This is good news, but we don't want to get too excited," Boardman noted. "We can sure use the money. If we have it at the end of the year it will be great. We have to heed to his (Holden's) warning: The grim outlook hasn't gone away."