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March06

Amended bill provides NO increase in funding for schools

School districts would receive no increase in funding for next school year based on the latest version of the state aid funding bill passed by a legislative committee.

 

House Appropriators passed the amended Senate Bill 35, which provides zero percent increase in funding for general education fund levy, average teacher salary target and the overhead rate for additional salary and benefit costs, on a 7-1 vote on Monday (3/6).

 

“Taking the schools to zero (percent increase) is disappointing,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany testified before the committee.

 

“I don’t think it’s as much about the money as it is about the precedent.”

 

The precedent Pogany referred to was the change to the law that requires an increase to schools of three percent or inflation, whichever is less, that would have to be made by the legislature.

 

This year, schools would be required to receive at minimum a 0.3 percent increase to state funding, but based on the amended version of SB 35, the legislature would change the law for the year in order to provide no increase.

 

“I ask you not to change the index (factor),” Pogany said. “I ask you to fund schools at the minimum amount.”

 

“I’m pleading with you that schools need that small, small amount of money.”

 

Pogany estimated 0.3 percent would be approximately $2.6 million in new money for schools, which he said would help schools pay their bills, but not “grow our teacher salaries.”

 

The amended SB 35 keeps the state’s target teacher salary at $48,500, which was set through last year’s House Bill 1182 that supplied revenue from a half-cent increase to the state sales tax in order to increase teacher salaries.

 

“We have moved education up substantially with (House Bill) 1182 from last year,” Rep. David Anderson said. “Nothing in this bill changes that.”

 

Pogany maintained the change in SB 35 was more the precedent of changing the law, which mandates schools receive at least an inflationary increase.

 

“Please continue to fund what the law says,” Pogany requested. “I know we’re in a tough bind, but I’m asking for your help.”

 

The bind comes from the lower than expected revenue returns from the state’s sales tax.

 

In February, legislative appropriators adopted revenue projections coming in at $27.7 million less than what was proposed during December’s budget address with the main culprit for the reduction being the state’s sales and use tax being $24 million lower than the figure proposed in December.

 

With Friday marking the last day of the main legislative session calendar, there may be some wiggle room for the bill, which now heads to the House floor for debate and vote.

 

“We know this (bill) may not be the final (version),” Rep. Jean Hunhoff said. “I think we need to get something started out of this committee.”

 

Should SB 35 be passed by the House it would return to the Senate for review and vote since it was amended by Representatives. The same would be done for Senate Bill 33, which was amended to provide zero percent increase to the special education fund levy and disability level allocations, and passed by the committee on a 7-1 vote, as well.

 

ASBSD will continue to advocate for at minimum the 0.3 percent increase and updates on the bill can be found on the ASBSD BlogTwitter feed and Bill Tracker.

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