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Schools funding eligibility

Published (3/7/2008)
By Thomas Hammell
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A bill laid over March 4 by the House K-12 Finance Division would allow 230 school districts to increase levies without voter approval for health and safety projects.

Laid over for possible inclusion in the division’s omnibus bill, HF2980, sponsored by Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka), would eliminate square footage requirements from the alternative facilities program, which now allows large school districts to undertake health and safety projects and deferred maintenance projects without first seeking voter approval.

Under current law, a district is eligible for the program if it has:

• at least 66 students per grade;

• either more than 1.85 million square feet of space and an average age of building space 15 years or older or at least 1.5 million square feet and an average building age of at least 35;

• insufficient revenue from other sources; and

• a 10-year facility plan approved by the education commissioner.

This bill offers school districts program revenue if the district’s average building age exceeds 25 years. It also raises the maximum amount of deferred maintenance revenue from $60 to $100 per pupil unit beginning in fiscal year 2010, increases the maximum lease levy amount for school district facilities from $100 to $150 per pupil and raises the additional lease levy for school districts that are members of an intermediate school district from $25 to $50 per pupil.

Benson said repair and upkeep issues keep escalating with a state backlog now reaching $4 billion. He said he is a supporter of local control for school districts, and noted the money does not come from the state.

A companion bill, SF2813, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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