The tussle over school district fund balances may be coming an end now that Gov. Mike Rounds has acknowledged that one-time funds trigger reserve increases.
The admission came as part of Gov. Rounds' response to a letter to the editor that appeared in the Doland Times Record last January. Doland Superintendent Jerry McPartland wrote the paper, in part, to explain the district's fund balance levels to community members.
In his letter, Gov. Rounds references a media statement, released by ASBSD after the state-of-the-state address, that responded to suggestions that state reserves and school fund balances are comparable (hint: We don't think that's a fair comparison).
Superintendent McPartland referenced portions of our statement throughout his letter to the editor, including the following statement:
According to research provided by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, since 1998, school district fund balances statewide have decreased by more than $25 million. Over the same period, state reserves have increased from $43 million to $133 million.
To that, Gov. Rounds responded:
What ASBSD failed to tell Mr. McPartland is the state received a one-time payment in 2004 in the amount of $66.3 million as part of the President's fiscal relief program. That money was placed into the property tax reduction fund. ASBSD also failed to tell Mr. McPartland my proposed budget calls for an ending balance of $99.7 million in the property tax reduction fund and the budget reserve combined.
Well... that's a positive step forward. We appreciate Gov. Rounds now says that one-time money has an impact on reserves, and that it might take up to five years to plan on how best to spend one-time funds.
ASBSD made that same point relative to school district fund balances (read here and here).
It's no coincidence that school reserves didn't increase until the Legislature offered one-time money. It's also important to note that schools have received more than $20 million in one-time money since 2004 ($171.43 per student in one-time money, to be exact).
Perhaps it's a step forward and will help put the fund balance argument to bed.
Of course, Gov. Rounds doesn't show many signs of slowing down in his defense of the status-quo in K-12 education policy. There have been a number of recent exchanges between Gov. Rounds and those who are attempting to provide an alternate perspective on K-12 policy.
Prominent blogger and Madison resident Cory Heidelberger, who runs the Madville Times, reported on a recent dialouge between Gov. Rounds and Rutland Superintendent Dr. Carl Fahrenwald.
South Dakota War College, another prominent South Dakota blog, reports today that on a lively discussion between Gov. Rounds and State Senator Sandy Jerstad, D-Sioux Falls, in the pages of the Tea-Harrisburg Champion.
(A couple notes. Open Forum receieved an early copy of Gov. Rounds letter to the editor, which won't likely run until this Wednesday. The South Dakota War College post references ASBSD's "School Funding Realities" data, which you can find on ASBSD's web site by clicking here. Second, to Madville Times: Congratulations on your decision to run for the Madison Central School Board.)