Schools remain set to receive no increase in state aid after Tuesday’s (3/7) session in the House of Representatives.
House members voted 42-25 in favor of 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.
SB 35 now heads back to the Senate for concurrence in the amendments made to the bill, which include the reduction in state aid. Should the Senate not concur with the House’s version of the bill a legislative conference committee will be scheduled in order for the sides to attempt to rectify their differences.
“We are holding education level,” Rep. Anderson said.
The decision to hold education funding level for the year is in conflict with the statutorily required increase for schools of three percent or inflation, whichever is less. This year, by state law, schools should receive at a 0.3 percent increase to state funding.
“We are obligated by the previous legislature’s commitment to education,” Rep. Dan Ahlers said, noting the 0.3 percent increase equates to $2.4 million.
“We have to stand up and honor our commitment to education.”
The thought of honoring the commitment in times of economic turmoil was not shared by all.
“We deal with the cards that our dealt to us,” Rep. Larry Rhoden said.
Rep. Rhoden added “the education community should feel extremely fortunate” not to face a cut in funding due to the state’s stagnant economy.
The stagnant economy presented the right time to utilize the state’s “rainy day” fund in order to meet the state law requirement for Rep. Ray Ring.
“I think that index factor is a promise,” Rep. Ring said. “We’re no longer promising.”
“Rainy day funds are for rain days and I think it’s a rainy day.”
Following the close of fiscal year 2016, the state’s budget reserve sits at $99.3 million.
In addition to passing SB 35, Representatives sent Senate Bill 33, which would provide a zero percent increase to the special education fund levy and disability level allocations, back to the Senate for review on a 51-16 vote.