Federal bill includes aid for district

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By Katie Zerr -

A bipartisan push by South Dakota’s Congressional Delegation will mean the Mobridge-Pollock School District will be receiving Impact Aid funding from the federal government.

Language hammered out between agencies allowed Impact Aid to districts that consolidated to be added to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by the Senate 72 to 26 on Friday, Jan. 14. The House passed the bill Wednesday with an overwhelming 359-67, bipartisan majority.

Max Schochenmaier of Capital Sense Consulting in Pierre, who worked with the staff of Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem to get the language for consolidated districts in the bill, said all that is needed now is the president’s signature and the bill will be law.

The language including the consolidated districts, has been pushed by Senator Johnson since 2007, but not been included in recent legislation.

“Due to appropriations protocol, this is the first year that we have been able to include it in the Appropriations Bill,” said Schochenmaier. “I am pleased that the Department of Education supported the language in this law.”

In order for the language to be included, it had to pass out of a number of committees, including the Departments of Education, Health and Labor. Schochenmaier said the language includes retroactive payments to districts that consolidated since 2006 and is a permenant part of the law.

“Now they need to hammer out the details to get the retroactive payments from 2010 through 2014 to those districts,” she said.

Both Senators Johnson and Thune worked hard to get the language included on the bill, said Schochenmaier. When Noem came on board, she supported it in the House, helped to keep the language included in the Appropriations Bill.

Schochenmaier said John Forkenbock of the National Associations of Federally Impacted Schools has been diligent in getting important information to those working on this. She said support came from the staffs of the state’s delegation including Jordan Stoick, Noem’s Chief of Staff, and Jane Lucas, Carrie Johnson, and Andrew Christenson in the senator’s offices.

What does it mean for Mobridge-Pollock School District? According to Schochenmaier, it means $82,526 per year for the district’s general fund.

Superintendent Tim Frederick said it means the district will not have to wonder whether the funding would be distributed to the districts.

“We never knew when we would receive it (impact aid,)” he said. “Now we can build our budgets knowing that will be there. Before this legislation it was hit or miss.”

The funding is not restrictive, meaning it can be spent in capital outlay or through the general fund. It could be used for salaries, equipment, repairs to the track or paying for the new activities bus.

The retroactive payment will come in a one-time lump sum, but it is unknown when that payment will happen. Frederick said hopefully it would happen yet this year.

“With what is going on in Washington it was great that all of the Congressional Delegation were on board with this,” said Frederick.

 

What is Impact Aid?

Impact aid is given to school districts across the United States that have within their boundaries parcels of land that are owned by the federal government or that have been removed from the local tax rolls by the federal government. That may include reservation land or in the cast of Mobridge-Pollock School District land taken for the expansion of the Oahe Reservoir. Since 1950, Congress has provided financial assistance to these local school districts through the Impact Aid Program. Payments for federal property assist local school districts that have lost a portion of their local tax base because of federal ownership of property. To be eligible, a school district must demonstrate that the federal government has acquired, since 1938, real property with an assessed valuation of at least 10 percent of all real property in the district at the time of acquisition.

 

 

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