Finances, legislation topics of MP School Board
– By Katie Zerr
Mobridge-Pollock School Board members Monday, Feb. 10, discussed district finances, legislation being considered that would impact the district, and learned what the Impact Aid bill passed in Congress would mean to the district.
Superintendent Tim Frederick told the board legislation being debated in Pierre would change the manner in which tax revenue from energy sources would be distributed in the state. He said HB 1205, which is currently under consideration, would create a treasury for school district tax revenue. The bill would revise the manner in which tax revenue is distributed to districts, which is based on their daily enrollment numbers.
Frederick said this bill is facing opposition from educators because in other cases, funds that have been handled in this manner have eventually been added to the state’s general fund and used for other purposes beyond education.
With the future development of the Campbell County wind farm, it could mean $70,000 to $75,000 in tax revenue to the district using the distribution mechanism now in place.
Board vice president Eric Stroeder said the Associated School Boards of South Dakota opposes this bill because it doesn’t approve of having the state involved in taking the funding for distribution.
Other legislation that failed to pass was a push to make it law that districts don’t start school until the last Monday in August. Frederick said the bill failed because it took away a district’s right to start school according to what is best for the students of the district.
The Impact Aid legislation attached to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed in Washington recently would mean there would be more certainty that districts would receive the funding. Up until the time of the passage of the bill, districts did not know when or even if they would receive the funding.
Because of a push by the South Dakota delegation, particularly Tim Johnson, (who made certain the language was included in the bill) and Kristi Noem, who pushed the legislation in the house, consolidated districts such as Mobridge-Pollock would receive impact aid payments not received since the consolidation.
Frederick said the district should see a one-time payment of $376,000 to $418,000 sometime in the next 60 days.
The district will receive at least 90 percent of $93,000 each year from now on in impact aid funding.
Frederick tempered the positive news by reiterating that the district will have to replace $150,000 in salaries that came with the SIG grant and a potential increase in insurance costs of $70,000. Even with the boost in the federal funding, the district will have a budget deficit of $178,000 next year.
“That is why we built up the general fund to the level it is now,” he told the board.
He also told the board the district is still trying to fill a math position that has been open since last year. He said some algebra classes have 25 or more students and that is not conducive to a positive learning environment for students. A number of students who wouldn’t be taking certain algebra classes have been moved into other classes because of this.
Jill Olson, Joe Lenz and Andrew Overland all had positive reports on the results in new programs designed to help student achievement.
Olson, principal of the elementary schools, said the students are showing growth in the math and reading areas.
“We are very pleased with the results of the benchmark testing,” she said. “This solidifies that the things we are doing are working.”
Lenz told the group as part of the school improvement efforts, parents need to be a key component in the process. He said the family-friendly walk through is part of that plan. He said as the district changes with students moving in and out of the district, it is important to include parents in the education process as a shared responsibility. The family-friendly process examines how inviting the school is to family and the local community. This information will be used to make the school more family friendly and hopefully increase family engagement.
Overland showed the board charts that tracked failed courses in school years 2011-2012; 2012-2013; and 2013-2014. The charts clearly show that through the ICU program, when students are required to finish assignments, the number of failed courses has dropped from a high of 104 in the second quarter of 2011-2012 to 44 in second quarter of 2013-2014.
“In the beginning of the year we had a lot students missing assignments for as long as a month,” he said. “We still have missing assignments, but they are down to about one week.”
He said students are being responsible in getting those assignments into their instructors.
Frederick told the group a Mobridge-Pollock student had a measure of accomplishment not often reached in the district. He said Stephanie Gemar, daughter of Ron and Bonnie of Mobridge, had reached the final 15,000 students qualifying for National Merit Scholarships. Nationwide, 1.5 million students take the qualifying tests. That group is narrowed down through a process to the final 15,000. Gemar is among that group.
“That is quite an accomplishment,” he told the group, which included Gemar. “We are proud of you, Stephanie.”
The board went into an executive session to discuss a personnel matter just before 8 p.m. and was in session until nearly 11:30 p.m.