The 2020 Missouri General Assembly was drastically altered in late March by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Prior to spring break the legislature was working on a supplemental budget that would have addressed needs in the current budget by allocating an additional $100 million. The legislature passed two bills this week aiming to shore up the budget for the current fiscal year that draw down federal monies during these uncertain times.
The two pieces of legislation passed by the legislature include a one-year continuation of the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) program, which essentially funds Missouri’s Medicaid program through federal matching dollars, and the FY2020 supplemental budget. The legislature approved more than $6.2 billion in spending that mostly includes potential federal funds to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Legislative leaders stated their main goal for use of the federal funds is to supplant any state dollars that would not be available due to the downturn in the economy. The main goal of the supplemental budget is to give broad flexibility to the governor to ensure that any possible federal funds available for the state would be able to be utilized. Budget leaders indicated that there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding federal guidance on the amount, as well as how money from recently passed congressional relief could be spent.
The House met briefly to approve the changes made by the Senate and approved the bill with modification to their voting procedures to protect the safety of the public and members of the legislature.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle made it clear that while they authorized the executive branch to allocate these funds, there will be accountability for all dollars spent in the state.
The FY2020 budget signed by Gov. Parson in June of 2019 accounted for $30 billion in spending, the current budget year ends on June 30. Leadership in the Missouri General Assembly have not given any information regarding when they will return to session this year. The FY 2021 state budget must be completed by May 8, and the yearly session concludes at 6 p.m., on May 15. It is possible the governor could call a special session to complete the budget outside of the regular session. Missouri’s fiscal year 2021 begins on July 1, 2020.
MSTA Director of Communication Todd Fuller recently interviewed Rep. Rusty Black on the Missouri budget situation and the future of the legislative session. Rep. Black is a former teacher and MSTA member who spent 32 years teaching agriculture education in north central Missouri. He currently represents the 7th district in the Missouri House of Representatives. He is the chair of the Subcommittee on Appropriations-Education and the vice chair of the House Pensions Committee.
Black is a strong advocate for public education and understands the importance of strong public education to ensure the success of students, families and communities across Missouri.
Gov. Mike Parson issued a stay–at–home order that was effective at midnight on Monday. The order limits the number of people permitted inside essential businesses and mandated that schools remain closed until at least April 24. Although districts may have set a timetable for opening after April 24, schools across the state will remain closed but they can continue to provide food service and childcare if they wish.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requested the governor waive a number or state statutes. On April 3, Gov. Parson, under the powers of his emergency declaration, granted DESE’s request to modify or forgive certain graduation requirements and other time specific statutes. These waived or modified requirements include allowing districts to count mileage driven by school buses that are delivering food and/or remote learning opportunities to students, and/or providing Wi-Fi nears students’ homes as allowable transportation costs for reimbursement for state aid.
In a recent video, MSTA staff attorney Scott Smith discussed the stay-at-home order and change to the timeline for teacher contracts. Typically, schools must notify probationary teachers by April 15 if they are not going to offer them a contract for the following school year. Further, for those being reemployed, schools must physically offer contracts to those probationary teachers by May 15. Both of these deadlines have been pushed back 30 days, making May 15 and June 15 the deadlines for this year. This gives schools more time to make decisions on staffing for next school year.
The Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri (PSRS/PEERS) Board of Trustees met on April 6, 2020. The board met by videoconference for a regularly scheduled meeting. The Board of Trustees discussed the changes made by the systems to continue operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as updates on investments.
The board elected a new chair and vice chair. Jason Hoffman, CFO/COO of the Jefferson City School District was elected to serve as the new chair, and Jason Steliga, teacher at Park Hill South High School was elected vice chair. The current chair, Dr. Aaron Zalis is retiring from the board later this year.
The board received a briefing from various PSRS/PEERS staff regarding the operations of the systems. Employees are working remotely and able to complete the investment and normal operations of the system, including paying timely benefits to retirees.
A large part of the meeting was an update from Craig Husting, the chief investment officer for the systems. He provided information on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the markets and the investments of the systems. As discussed in previous meetings, the board adopted a new asset allocation of 45% Public Risk Assets, 20% Safe Assets and 35% Private Risk Assets. PSRS staff and lobbyists also gave a presentation on state budget projections and an update on the legislative session.
Missouri’s largest public education associations are supporting two candidates for the upcoming PSRS/PEERS Board of Trustees election. Missouri State Teachers Association, the Missouri Association of School Administrators, Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association, Missouri Association for Career and Technical Education and the Missouri NEA believe Dr. Melinda Moss and Darren Farmer will continue to ensure Missouri’s education professionals and retirees have a secure and well-funded retirement. They will advocate for all members of the system and their successful election will ensure the board continue to reflect the education community.
Ballots will be sent out to all PSRS/PEERS members for this important election on April 23. Please share this information with public education staff and retirees in your community.
For a full report on the meeting, visit https://www.psrs-peers.org/News/2020/04/07/April-2020-Board-Meeting