JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri lawmakers authorized up to $2 million of state aid Tuesday to help a financially strapped, unaccredited St. Louis-area school system remain open through the remainder of the school year.
The state rescue for the Normandy School District was included in a $327 million budget bill given final approval by the House and Senate that covers unanticipated state expenses for the fiscal year that ends June 30. It now needs only the signature of Gov. Jay Nixon.
Lawmakers approved the additional spending for the 2014 budget on the same day that the Senate Appropriations Committee worked on a separate budget plan for the 2015 fiscal year that starts this July.
It’s typical for the Missouri Legislature to approve annual supplemental spending bills. But the Legislature has not typically had to come to the financial aid of an individual school system to ensure it doesn’t shut its doors before the end of the school year.
The Normandy School District is financially strained, in part, because of a state law that requires unaccredited school districts to pay for the costs of students who chose to transfer to other nearby school districts.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has projected that Normandy could finish the year with about $63,000, which wouldn’t leave much room for unexpected costs.
The supplemental budget bill provides $2 million to the state education department to be distributed to Normandy if needed to complete the current school year.
Other provisions in the supplemental spending bill would shift $69 million of general revenues to the state Medicaid program to make up for a shortfall in Missouri’s annual settlement payments from tobacco companies. The state had expected to receive about $130 million in tobacco settlement payments this year. But that’s being cut by more than half after an arbitration panel decided that Missouri officials in 2003 failed to diligently enforce the terms of the multi-state tobacco settlement.
The supplemental spending bill also includes an additional $3 million to help low-income people pay their utility bills.
Other sections use state and federal funds to make up for shortfalls in school funding and child welfare programs and to pay overtime for state mental health care workers.
Legislators approved the 2014 supplemental budget bill with little discussion Tuesday. The Senate Appropriations Committee spent considerably more time discussing its version of the proposed 2015 budget.
Among other things, the Senate committee decided to boost the Division of Tourism’s budget from slightly less than $15 million currently to nearly $25 million in the next fiscal year. Nixon had recommended the $10 million bump. The House had approved a $5 million increase in its version of the budget.
Negotiators from the two chambers will have to work out a final version of next year’s budget by May 9.
The Senate committee also decided to add $5 million to the next year’s budget to help cover expenses if Kansas City is chosen to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, $1.5 million to renovate a century-old building at the Missouri State Fairgrounds and $1.3 million for the state to take over the crime lab now run by the city of Independence.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer proposed to add $37,500 to equip state water patrol boats at the Lake of the Ozarks with portable defibrillators to aid people with heart problems. Other committee members liked the idea so much that they expanded it to $160,000 to place portable defibrillators on boats patrolling every lake in the state.
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