Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Superb Report.  I can't say it any more simply than that.  The final report approved by the School Facilities Working Group today would provide a long-needed boost for school districts throughout the state in meeting on-going facility needs.  If adopted, the recommendations would provide both greater adequacy and equity in funding as resources would be increased along with the equalization factors related to these programs.  This would certainly be welcome.

The recommendations are as follows:

  1. Establish a new long-term facilities maintenance program to replace the current alternative facilities, deferred maintenance, and health & safety programs.  This would provide a major revenue increase for districts currently not eligible for the alternative facilities program.
  2. Improve the debt service equalization program by increasing the portion of debt service that is eligible for equalization, restoring the state share of equalized revenue, and indexing future equalization.  This is a long-time SEE priority and it's great that this is included in the report.
  3. Equalize the capital projects referendum levy.  This levy is currently pretty much the domain of high property wealth districts.  Equalizing it would certainly bring greater fairness to the system.
  4. Establish a new school facilities improvement revenue program to replace the current building lease levy, providing all school districts with access to a uniform allowance for locally-defined student needs.  This would expand allowable uses for the lease levy and also equalize it.  It also provides assistance for intermediate districts, education districts, and cooperatives.
  5. Increase the operating capital revenue, index it for inflation, and increase the equalizing factor.  Not much to say here except "all good."
  6. Provide enhanced debt service equalization to address unique situations or needs.  This recommendation aims to help districts where a disaster has taken place and would also replace the consolidation grant program.
  7. Streamline the review and comment process.  This recommendation would increase the threshold below which review and comment would be required and would also eliminate the need for review and comment on projects funded with the newly-established long-term maintenance revenue, facilities improvement revenue, and operating capital revenue.
  8. Address the facilities needs of other educational entities (charters, cooperatives, intermediate districts, education districts).  Some of this is addressed with recommendation #4, but this recommendation also deals with charter schools.
All in all, this is an excellent report.  I have a copy of the slightly marked up draft report (there were several minor amendments attached today) and the district-by-district runs.  They have not been posted to the MDE website at this point, but should be shortly.  If you would like a copy, contact me.  Remember that the SEE office is out of commission due to the flooding at the MASA office complex, but I can still be reached at or 612-220-7459.

In closing, I hope to see a lot of you at the MSBA convention tomorrow.

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