School district fund balances questioned

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School district fund balances questioned

The discussion about the levels of school district general fund balances has subtly reemerged in the Capitol building during the home stretch of legislative session.


During Friday’s Joint Appropriations committee hearing for Senate Bill 187 – the state’s general fund bill – Rep. Susan Wismer addressed the topic.


“We are taking a snapshot of their (school districts) cash balance,” Rep. Wismer said. “We should note be using our inability to understand the budgeting practices of school (districts)…to underfund education.”


Rep. Wismer said the “snapshots” of the fund balances were recorded at the same time as when districts received one-time dollars from the state and were “misleading.”


Rep. Phyllis Heineman said that although the “snapshot” of the fund balances was taken around the time one-time dollars were deposited with schools the balance’s total dollar amount and percentage of dollars compared to expenditures had grown steadily for some time and bore notice by the legislature.


“Certainly, it’s something we need to watch,” Heineman said.


In 2013, school district fund balances for all public schools in South Dakota totaled over $240 million, which is 30 percent of the total expenditures among districts.


Sen. Billie Sutton said state government is holding reserves when they could be spent for ongoing use itself.


“We have reserves up here for the state…and we don’t use those for ongoing costs,” Sen. Sutton said. “Here we are trying to micromanage (school districts).”


For updates from legislative session, check the ASBSD Blog and Bill Tracker page.

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