Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Lietz reviews the District’s position on many of the bills before the ND Legislature that impact the school district.
Legislation That Impacts Fargo Public Schools
by Broc Lietz, Business Manager
The 2015 North Dakota Legislative session is in full swing and there are a number of bills that have the potential to significantly impact Fargo Public Schools (FPS). The district has a bill tracking list that contains 70 bills that we are either monitoring, supporting, or opposing. This article will highlight some of the more prominent bills that have the greatest potential impact and the FPS position.
HB 1218: OPPOSE. This is a bill that would limit ending fund balances for school districts. As filed, it would have required ending fund balance limitations for next year. The limitation would be 10% or $300,000 for the General Fund and 1.5% or $45,000 for “all other funds.” The second part would include our Building Fund, Nutrition Services Fund, and Health Insurance Reserve Fund. The sponsor (Rep. Nathe) is providing an amendment to remove reference to “all other funds.” He also seems interested in a compromise on the General Fund. The North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders recommendation is 20% plus $250,000. There is some willingness to move in that direction. The state average in the General Fund is 23%. FPS is currently at 19%.
HB 1216: SUPPORT. This is a “real time payment” bill. It would allow for foundation aid to be paid on either the June ADM report or fall enrollment as stated in the September 10th reporting, whichever is greater. This continues to be a significant issue in growing districts that have enrollment growth below the threshold for rapid enrollment grants. This bill would pay for every student in the year they are enrolled. Last year, FPS would have received approximately $1.7 million in additional state aid under this plan. The fiscal note is stated at $66 million, however, if passed, the rapid enrollment grants would not be necessary, so that money would be used against the $66 million. Ultimately, this bill simply shifts the state liability from one year to the next.
SB 2178: SUPPORT. This bill would invest $125 million in the state loan construction program and make funding available either February or March of this year, prior to the legislature finishing. This is an attempt to fund those projects that are on a waiting list following the last legislative session that were unable to be funded due to lack of available state funds. FPS is on this list for the construction loan request for the Ed Clapp Elementary project. However, this bill has language allowing for prioritization by the Department of Public Instruction. One of the criteria includes voter approval. The current program is “first come, first served.” This pool would be administered differently. This could mean FPS wouldn’t receive these interim funds. We would argue that our approval was provided in 1991 as part of the building fund authorization.
SB 2210: SUPPORT. This bill would redefine Regional Education Associations (such as the South East Education Cooperative or SEEC) and provide them a legal status that allows them to be a stand-alone organization if they chose. This would likely mean that FPS would no longer be the fiscal agent for SEEC.
SB 2031: SUPPORT. This is the K – 12 funding bill. Significant changes in the funding formula includes: increased weighting factors for At-Risk students, specifically K – 3; increased weighting factors for English Language Learning (ELL) students; the establishment of ELL Grants to providing distribution of $2.5 million to those six districts in the state with the highest enrollment of ELL students; new weighting factors for days three, four, and five of professional development; and increases in the per pupil aid to $9,482 in year one and $9,766 in year two.
Some additional bills that have been introduced, but have not yet had committee hearings, include:
HB 1055: MONITOR. Changes property tax calculation from valuation per mill to cents. Former School Board member Rick Steen has indicated that the County will oppose this bill.
HB 1080: MONITOR. Recommended increase in North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS), 1% on each side effective January 1, 2016. This is the fourth increase for NDPERS, bringing it in line with the 4% increase in the Teachers’ Fund for Retirement (TFFR).
HB 1131: MONITOR. Expands Veteran’s Preference to Superintendents and Teachers. They currently are exempt from this law.
HB 1195: OPPOSE. This bill would allow anyone with a concealed weapon permit and appropriate training, to carry a weapon on school property with the approval of the governing board.
HB 1461: OPPOSE. This is a bill that intends to move K – 12 education away from the North Dakota State Standard, adopted as the Common Core Standards.
Here is a web site where you can input a bill number and read the actual legislation that is proposed, rather than the summary provided in this column:
If you have any questions regarding the current legislative session and potential bill action, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701.446.1026.