Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Tax Bill Heard.  The Governor's tax proposal was heard in the Senate Tax Committee this morning and because there are some significant tax provisions that affect school district taxes, a number of school groups testified on the bill, including SEE in the person of yours truly.  For those who need refreshing, the Governor's tax proposal contains two provisions related to school building bond debt that would help a number of school districts.  The first is the Ag Bond Credit which writes off 40% of the property tax .burden on agricultural property attributable to school building bond debt.  This provision was part of the vetoed tax bill from last session and is being revisited by all parties this year.  The second provision is increased debt service equalization.  The Governor proposes to inject $60 million into increased debt service equalization over the next four years.  This is done by lowering the second tier eligibility threshold, first to 22.34% for taxes payable in 2017 (which will be carried as an adjustment on taxes payable in 2018) and then to 19.00% for taxes payable in 2018 and beyond.  Besides the obvious support these proposals will receive from SEE, it is important to note these proposals are in the tax bill and not in the education bill.  In my remarks, I stated that the Tax Committee is the appropriate place for these items to be discussed instead of being pitted against money on the formula or towards the special education formula.  I also stated that SEE, AMSD, and MREA have been working together on a larger equalization package that will be unveiled within the next week or so.  Should be interesting times.

The House Education Finance Committee continued to take testimony on the Governor's education budget today, with a number of groups offering their perspective.

The Senate E-12 Funding Committee spent its time on four bills and testimony from MDE staff on the Governor's E-12 budget that has been introduced as SF 718 authored by committee chair Senator Carla Nelson. The bill that is of the greatest interest to SEE is Senator Kiffmeyer's SF 189.  Senator Kiffmeyer represents a number of low wealth/low revenue school districts and has tried for years to come up with a formula that will channel more funds to districts at the lower end of the revenue spectrum.  SF 189 is not the most straightforward formula I could imagine, but it does zero in on a handful of districts at the lower end of the revenue spectrum.  SEE superintendents Ann Marie Foucault (St. Michael-Albertville), Steve Westerberg (Big Lake), and Bruce Watkins (Elk River) along with Farmington superintendent Jay Haugen provided comments about what it's like to be in the situation that Senator Kiffmeyer is attempting to remedy.  It will be interesting to see how the discussion around this bill proceeds as the session continues.  

The other bills receiving attention were:

SF 186-Wiger-Grants for programs that facilitate transition between middle school and high school.

SF 442-Paul Anderson-Funding for Minnesota Math Corps

SF 718-Nelson-Governor's Budget 

Speaking of St. Michael-Albertville, congratulations to the district for passing its bond levy on Tuesday.

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