Increase in state aid doesn’t cover increasing costs
State funding and legislation that could impact South Dakota school districts in the future were issues discussed at the Monday, Feb. 11, Mobridge-Pollock School Board meeting.
Superintendent Tim Frederick told the board the proposed 3 percent increase in state aid to students would increase the state aid to $4,626 per student. That is an increase of $134 per student and will mean $89,100 to the district. He said before the cuts to state aid in education under the Mike Rounds administration, the per student state aid allocation in the district was $4,804.
Frederick told the board with an 8 percent increase in insurance costs and increases in staff salaries, the state aid increase in funding is gone. With little conversation in the South Dakota Legislature about increasing the state aid, Frederick said he doubted the state’s districts would see any more than the proposed 3 percent increase. That includes any one-time funding increase. He said the legislative discussion for one-time funding is leaning towards increases to teachers in technical education, which the state’s superintendents are requesting the legislature to reconsider.
He said tax evaluations have gone up, which would bring additional revenue. There have been questions from the community concerning increases on tax bills due in 2013, according to Frederick. He said the increases are due to the higher evaluation, which increased to $179 million in Walworth County.
He said a change in the mil levy on agricultural land has shifted more of the tax burden to other property.
Mobridge-Pollock Business Manager Kim Schneider addressed the changes to the proposed cap to the extraordinary cost fund in special education. This is the fund from which districts can request funding to meet the needs of special education students. Schneider said some districts were receiving funding that did not meet the fund’s intended purpose, thus straining the budget. The proposed changes include capping the fund at $4 million, which means requests from some districts will be turned down.
“This will hurt the students and districts in this area and open districts to lawsuits if they refuse to open enroll special needs students,” she told the board.
It was asked if students could be pushed into districts that could meet the needs of the students. Since districts must approve open enrollment requests, those students could be denied, which could open that district up to legal action, she said.
The board briefly discussed other legislation being considered this session, including HB 1239 involving pension plans and the so-called Sentinel Bill, which involves arming a staff member in schools as a line of protection against possible intruders.
Frederick asked the members if they were getting any community feedback on this issue.
The majority said the idea of having an armed resource officer on duty was more acceptable than arming staff.
“No one wants to arm a teacher,” said Board President Harry “Bingo” Kindt.
Gilbert Mickelson asked how schools would be expected to guard students who are involved in an activity or on the playground at recess.
“Where do you stop?” he asked.
Some of the safety measures in the McLaughlin School District, including metal detectors at school doors, were also discussed, but again it was pointed out that metal detectors couldn’t stop an intruder.
Since the legislation has not yet passed in Pierre, the board took no action and will discuss the matter again in the future.
Frederick gave special recognition to the administration and staff of the special education department for receiving an outstanding review from the South Dakota Department of Education. He said they received the best report for that department in all the years he had been part of this administration. He congratulated Jill Olson and her staff on the outstanding job.
He also noted the staff’s work on the music contest held on Wednesday, Feb. 6, especially the music department. He said not many schools host the contests because it is a huge endeavor and schools must close for the day. He commended the fine arts department for again doing an outstanding job.
Frederick also congratulated the students and staff that participated in the first annual “Smarts Challenge” and noted the extra time students had taken with their projects. He thanked the community sponsors of the event and instructors Pam Wells and Marty Looyenga for taking the time to organize the event and work with students. He also thanked the volunteers from the community who, along with the district’s staff, play a role in programs and activities that allow students to grow beyond the textbooks.
– Katie Zerr –