Legislative Update

By Business Manager Broc Lietz

Friday, May 3, 2013 will mark the 80th day of the 2013 Legislative Session, which under state statute is the maximum number of days allowable for a session. If this were a baseball game, we would say it is the bottom of the 9th, the bases are loaded, and there are two outs.

My point? It is late and the stakes are VERY HIGH. This update will provide you the current status of bills we are still tracking very closely. Conference committees are meeting steadily and bills literally change hour by hour. I will provide a final update once the session concludes.

The two most critical bills still unresolved from the perspective of Fargo Public Schools are HB 1286 which deals with Building Authority usage by governmental subdivisions; and HB 1319 – the K-12 funding bill.

HB 1286: Although the origin of this bill was to require a 60% voter approval for governmental subdivisions to utilize a Building Authority, it has seen many amendments throughout the session. The latest version of the bill coming out of the Conference Committee is to require a 60% voter approval for ANY project that is over $4 million dollars, REGARDLESS of funding source, and applies to ALL political subdivisions. This version is a major change from where it began. Inter-governmental partnerships have served Fargo Public Schools and the taxpayers of Fargo well through the years. In many cases, the relationship between FPS and the Fargo Park District has been the envy of our peers statewide. These types of partnerships are just one of the many things in jeopardy with this bill. Currently, the conference committee has provided a report to kill the bill. However, it is not getting to the House floor for fear it will in fact die. FPS is asking legislators to APPROVE the committee report and kill the bill.

HB 1319: As I have reported previously, this piece of legislation is a major change in philosophy for K-12 funding in North Dakota. The bill provides significant property tax relief to the citizens of North Dakota, $741 million in the original version; and provides a much larger per-pupil aid payment to school districts, thus shifting a larger burden of funding education onto the state rather than local taxpayers. This does not come without its challenges, however. There are restrictions in the bill for certain specified mill levies such as a technology levy, high school tuition levy, and alternative education levy to name a few. This is replaced by a “miscellaneous levy” up to 12 mills. Currently, FPS does not levy for any of the previously state purposes, however, the 12 mills wouldn’t make a district whole if they were utilizing these levies. This not insurmountable, but a challenge we all need to be aware of. The current version of this bill calls for a 60-mill reduction in local taxing authority, making the new state cap 50 mills rather than the existing 110 mills. FPS is an excess mill levy district, so we would need to reduce our current general fund levy from 191.18 to 131.18 under this bill. We would still be required to seek voter approval for our excess levy on or before 12/31/2015. The question becomes, “What level would we need to levy under the new formula?” FPS supports HB 1319 in its current form, as it pertains to the major items such as per-pupil payment and the 60-mill buy down.

Stay tuned for more updates. The next two days will be a whirlwind of activity. The pitcher is in his wind up . . . . . . Here is the delivery . . . . . . .