Expecting cuts to transportation budget, school districts exploring how to proceed local news joplinglobe.com gas dryer vs electric dryer

####

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is proposing a significant reduction in the amount of money schools receive to provide bus service to students. His budget plan, which was released last week, would reduce school transportation aid to $69 million in fiscal year 2018, compared with $105 million originally included in the current year’s budget.

Melissa Randol, Missouri School Boards’ Association executive director, says relatively flat core funding along with transportation cuts could lead to hard decisions on the local level. She said in a statement that cuts to transportation funding can have an impact on money for classrooms.

Cummins, of Seneca schools, said his district will review its budget for the coming year next month, and officials will explore ways to save money without impacting student learning. He thinks it might be possible to cut down the number of in-town stops along bus routes to help cut the expenses, but even if this is possible, he knows some alterations will need to be made to adjust for the $65,000 cut.

The cut to transportation funding comes as schools across the state are struggling to hire bus drivers. While the budget cuts could make it harder for districts to attract drivers, some local education officials said that state busing standards won’t allow districts to cut too deeply into their busing programs.

An unintended consequence of reduced transportation funding could be that districts look for funds elsewhere in their budget to make up the revenue shortfall. That could mean that cuts could be felt in the classroom, and many school districts are still figuring out what that looks like.

The Joplin School District anticipates a reduction in state funding of about $171,000 for transportation, according to Paul Barr, chief financial officer. He said administrators and the Board of Education will work in the coming months to put together a budget for fiscal year 2018 to accommodate the cuts.

"We’ll have to determine what we’re going to cut or what new revenues we’re going to use to make up that loss," he said. "The last thing we want to do is harm the classroom. It will be felt at some level in the services we provide, there’s no escaping that."

The East Newton School District spends about $765,000 annually on transportation, $160,000 of which comes from the state, said Superintendent Todd McCrackin. He said he didn’t yet know exactly how much of that amount would be cut next year, but that facing cuts of any kind is "pretty disappointing."

Although a large portion of students from Rep. Mike Kelley’s district rely on buses to get to school, their schools don’t look to the state for funding, he said. One of the school districts within Kelley’s area, Jasper, has gone to a four-day week in an effort to cut down on bus fuel and food service costs.

Kelley said he hopes that some of the “conservative,” business-friendly legislation the General Assembly is hoping to pass this year will encourage companies to relocate to Missouri. With more businesses and jobs, there could be more state revenue for schools, Kelley said.

Greitens’ budget proposal was announced last week during what’s shaping up to be a challenging time for state finances. Revenues so far this fiscal year have been lower than expected, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut to balance this year‘s budget.

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens took office in January and already has cut roughly $146 million from budget plans. His predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, cut about $200 million from this year‘s budget before leaving office. State lawmakers will consider Greitens’ proposal as they work to craft next fiscal year‘s budget.