Dayton's proposal would send millions more to Bemidji-area schools
February 10, 2017
BEMIDJI-Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's state budget proposal includes a $609 million increase in public education spending over the next two years, and nearly $6 million of that would go to Bemidji-area school districts and charter schools.
Dayton's budget proposal would mean an additional $3.1 million for Bemidji Area Schools in the 2018-19 school year, $1.2 million for the Red Lake School District, $870,000 for Cass Lake-Bena Schools, $406,000 for Blackduck Public Schools, and about $300,000 total for the Bemidji area's three charter schools, according to documents supplied by the governor's office.
The bulk of that new money would come from a pair of 2 percent increases in the state's per-student spending formula, which is Minnesota school districts' financial bread and butter and represents more than half of the proposed statewide education spending hike. The per-district figures released by the governor's office also include increases in special education funding and more state money to help stabilize employee retirement funds.
The funding formula increases are tied to the rate of inflation, education department staff said, and still have some catching up to do after a few years where the formula remained flat. Tom Melcher, the education department's school finance director, said the funding formula has made a 2.4 percent gain on inflation over the past four years but isn't enough to offset a 10.6 percent drop during the ten years before that.
"The idea here is to not fall farther behind," Melcher explained.
The governor's budget numbers, however, are only a proposal that still needs to wind its way through a GOP-controlled Legislature.
Repay bond levies
Dayton's budget request also includes $62 million, spread over four years, to help school districts repay bond levies they enacted for capital projects such as renovations or new buildings.
"In school districts without high-value land, the burden of paying for modern schools can fall disproportionately on just a few businesses, farms, and homeowners," a statement from the governor's office reads.
In the plan's first year, documents supplied by the governor's office indicate that $15.8 million would be allocated for those bond levy repayments, $53,000 of which would go to Cass Lake-Bena and $5 would go to Red Lake. Minnesota Department of Education staff said the Red Lake number is comparatively low because the school district has so little taxable property.
The governor's planned education spending would also include tens of millions of dollars for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, and the state's Child Care Assistance Program.
Dayton's broader budget proposal-which his website calls an "Opportunity Agenda for a Better Minnesota"-also includes millions of dollars for Minnesota State, the college and university system that encompasses BSU and Northwest Technical College.
Minnesota State hopes to get a total of $178 million in new money in the next biennium: $143 million to "support and protect campuses," $25 million to replace its technology infrastructure over the next seven years, and $10 million for student incentive grants. The governor's proposal would allocate the system $125 million for "campus support" and $25 million for the technology upgrade, but does not appear to have any money for the hoped-for grants.
BSU and NTC staff, faced with a multi-million dollar predicted budget shortfall between the two schools, maintain that they won't determine any budget specifics until the state Legislature finalizes a budget.