Funding Issues Top Legislative Priorities for ISD 709

By KBJR News 1

February 2, 2012 Updated Feb 2, 2012 at 11:29 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Money issues ruled the list of legislative priorities for Duluth Public Schools, from asking for funding for all-day kindergarten, to maintaining the district's integration funds.

Many argue the state of Minnesota has been balancing its budget on the backs of its schools.

The state with-held almost $2.8 billion in payments to school districts to fix the state budget shortfall, and when the state came out of the 2012-2013 biennium with an $876 million surplus, all of it was put toward restoring state reserves.

If that balance were larger, current law would direct additional dollars to the districts.

With the state expecting to have a $1.3 billion deficit in the next biennium, the forecast for gaining any lost funding doesn't look good.

Legislative priorities for Duluth Public Schools include funding toward all-day Kindergarten, keeping integration funding at its current levels and restoring referendum equalization to provide relief to local property tax payers, and make it easier for districts to pass referenda.

"We used to get, it was at least a four to one ratio, or maybe even five to one of state aid to local levy effort. In other words if we had 500,000 dollar referendum, 400,000 would have come from the state," said Ron Soberg, the district's legislative lobbyist.

Priorities also include permanent structural changes to Minnesota's tax system, which would no longer require school districts to rely on property taxes and replace that funding with other state tax money, and lastly, preventing further cuts and freezes to education funding.

The Duluth Public Schools are already looking at budget deficit for the next school year.

Right now, administration is in the midst of finding where $3.8 million in cuts can be made, and school board members say it's not going to be easy to vote on those cuts.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike