Budget cuts will impact MP district
Because of changes on the state level, the Mobridge-Pollock School announced Monday, March 11, their intent to extend the present opt out for another five years.
This is not an additional opt-out, but the same opt-out for the same amount that was approved by a vote of the people in 2009.
Before the change in the law, once a school district had opted-out, it would stay in place, allowing the district to have that funding available for use if needed. The resolution is a mechanism to let patrons of the district know the opt out is up for renewal and the district intends to extend it. The resolution allows time for a petition drive to force a vote if the patrons so want one.
“We have not even asked for the full amount available until last year,” said Mobridge-Pollock School Board President Harry “Bingo” Kindt. “When the state cut 8.6 percent of the per student aid, we needed to ask for the full amount.”
Mobridge resident and Ward III City Councilman Gene Cox, asked if the funding provided by the opt out makes up for what the state cut from the aid allocation.
Superintendent Tim Frederick told him even with the 3 percent added to this year’s state funding allocation, the per student funding was still more than 5 percent less than before the cuts were made. He said the opt-out funding is spent on the immediate needs of the students. The opt out funds 7.6 instructors. If the patrons of the school district would force a vote on the opt out, and it would fail to pass, the district would be in danger of having to cut those positions. That would mean larger classroom sizes.
“The funding that we have right now is not being spent on any fluff,” he said.
Kindt said even if the district cut the full extra-curricular budget, which would include all fine arts and sports, the district would still need $100,000 from the opt out. He went on to say that since the district built the new school, 100 students have been added in the district. If programs start to get cut the district would begin to lose students, he said.
He said he had been participating in conversations with other state school officials and it is believed there will be a 15 percent to 17 percent cut in federal aid because of the sequester budget cuts. He said any federal funding would be cut by at least 5 percent.
“We will need to find some ways to be more creative with our staff to fill the gaps,” he said. “If we decide to use capital outlay funding for insurance and utilities, we may not have to ask for the full opt-out amount.”
The $350,000 opt out is based on 1.67 mills per $1,000 in property, which means $170 additional taxes per year for a $100,000 home.
The resolution calls for extension of the current opt out through 2018 and states that the district will only use the $350,000 allowed each year needed for operation of the school district to offer a quality education with a priority of keeping classrooms at a manageable size.
Frederick pointed out that South Dakota school districts are getting a 3 percent raise in per student funding allocation, which means about $135 per student to the M-P district. Governor Dennis Daugaard signed SB15, which adjusts tax levies and revises provisions of state aid for special education. The maximum level for special education is $1.55 per $1,000 of valuation with the state aid qualifying level at $1.35. He said there was a hard push to keep the local effort to state aid ratio at 61 to 39 percent and believes that is what it will be going forward. In special education, the average cost per student statewide is $5,809 but in Mobridge-Pollock it is $4,662.
“Our staff does a good job and has received an excellent report in the area,” he said.
Another bill recently passed by the South Dakota Legislature that impact taxes in the district is SB28 concerning property tax levies.
This bill establishes the annual tax levy adjustments for school district’s general fund. The commercial levy was set at $9.20 per $1,000 of valuation, an increase of more than 57 cents from last year. The agricultural levy was lowered to $2.09, a decrease of 23 cents from last year.
The levy for owner-occupied property was raised to $4.29, an increase of more than 26 cents from last year.
The so-called Sentinel Bill was also signed into law. This bill allows a school district to implement a program which arms individuals other than law enforcement in their schools. School sentinels would require 40 hours of arms training. Approval by local law enforcement is required and a decision by the school board can be referred to a vote of the people by petition. The decision on participation in the sentinel program must be made in open session, but the sentinels can be talked about in executive session.
– Katie Zerr –