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Laumeier

Release of withholdings will provide some funds for Lindbergh, Mehlville


Despite Lindbergh and Mehlville's hold-harmless status, the two school districts should receive money soon as a result of Gov. Bob Holden's release of education withholdings.

While area administrators acknowledged that the release of withholdings is good news for districts on the formula, those funds will be just drops in a barrel for Lindbergh and Mehlville.

Holden recently announced that at least $127 million will be released to Missouri schools, colleges and universities. He credits a slowdown of the issuance of state tax credits, a state hiring freeze, continuing litigation with Southwestern Bell and other state savings for freeing up funds for the fiscal 2004 budget — enabling him to call for the release of funds withheld since summer 2003, according to a recent news release.

But Lindbergh and Mehlville school districts will receive just a small fraction of the millions of dollars that will be released.

Because both Lindbergh and Mehlville are hold-harmless, their state funds are frozen at 1993 levels.

However, funds for the school districts' categoricals, such as transportation, remedial reading and gifted programs, were withheld last August.

Neither school district knows how much it will be funded for gifted education, though the districts have calculated rough estimates for their incoming transportation funds.

Lindbergh could receive $50,000, while Mehlville could receive $70,000, according to estimates made by both districts' assistant superintendents of finance.

"On a $42 million budget, it's not much of an effect," said Pat Lanane, Lindbergh's assistant superintendent of finance. "I'm always glad to get any amount of money you can get, especially with the return of taxpayers' dollars ... But it doesn't change our financial picture very much."

Lanane questioned Holden's early April announcement that the state could afford to release funds without knowing the state's financial picture.

"How could they possibly really know the final revenue picture until taxes are due?" Lanane told the Call April 15. "The earliest would be today. A lot of people file late ... I'm a little apprehensive they announced those before the 15th ... I think they could not have really known a final answer ... That's why I haven't gone through a lot of work, time and effort on this until I find out exactly what this means ... It doesn't change our budget picture dramatically."

Mehlville Assistant Superintendent of Finance Randy Charles said he anticipates Mehlville could receive between $25,000 and $50,000 for both remedial reading and gifted education, but he has received no indication from the state to believe those figures are accurate.

"It was money that was promised to us in the budget that was approved by the House and the Senate and eventually the governor. Then the governor withheld this money. And it was withheld earlier in the year. So, even though it was promised to us. We've not been counting on it," Charles told the Call.

"So, we basically planned this year as if that money were not going to be there. We've got a plan in place this year to get through this year without that funding. Now that it is coming in, I think it is wise for us to stay the course — continue with our plan for reducing expenditures throughout the balance of this year,'' Charles added.

He believes that allowing the money that should be released to Mehlville to go untouched will contribute to the district's end-of-the-year balance and raise it from 3.18 percent to 3.28 percent.

"It would help,"he said. "Every little bit helps."

Noting that the money is appreciated, however if withholdings, for some reason, are not released to Mehlville, "We would be all right, it would just bring our (end-of-the-year) balance a little lower than it would otherwise."

Administrators expect to receive the bulk of the released funds in their May payments from the state, and then the rest should come in June.

"Compared to the formula districts, this will be a small amount,'' Lanane said.

"We will get just a fraction of what they will receive ... This is a treat for formula districts ... I'm glad they're going to feel it. It was a huge amount for them, but a relatively small amount for us,'' the Lindbergh assistant superintendent added.

Fox and Hancock Place are area formula districts.

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