Rounds: No ‘one-time’ school funding

Rounds: No 'one-time' school funding Governor Mike Rounds By David Lias Gov. Mike Rounds knows that many South Dakota school district administrators are longing for the extra �one time� boost in state funding they�ve received in the past two years.

Those one-time funds aren�t part of the governor�s budget plan this legislative session.

�We�ve made strides in addressing what K-12 leaders have told me, which is ?we want ongoing funding,� and at the same time, I�ve allowed the Legislature the leeway to, if they want, to put in additional one-time funding,� he said.

Extra dollars

School officials and South Dakota citizens should take note, however, that the state still is providing extra dollars for education, Rounds said Friday.

�Even if you take away the fact that we have not yet provided any one time funds this year,� the governor said, �the ongoing dollars that we have discussed in our budget address ? is still the largest increase in ongoing dollars they (the school districts) have ever got.�

Rounds held an �on the record� round table discussion with news media from southeastern South Dakota Friday afternoon at the Al Neuharth Media Center in Vermillion.

Schools will receive $118.70 per student more than the previous year in Gov. Rounds� budget plan.

�It�s the largest increase in ongoing dollars the schools have ever got,� Rounds said, �and it is still more than what they got last year by approximately $50 per child.�

The governor said school officials were always made aware that the extra funds they received in the past two years were �one time� monies.

�We wanted to help them (the school districts) get ahead of the ball game a little bit,� Rounds said. �We made it clear in every one of our budget addresses and during our legislative process that those were one-time dollars.�

No support for 3 percent

A call by school leaders to increase school funding by 3 percent annually isn�t supported by the governor.

School leaders say that mandating such an increase would not only provide additional monies, but also assist in the annual budgeting process.

�I disagree with that,� Rounds said, �not because I don�t think they should receive adequate funding, but because I need them with me when it becomes time to defend revenue sources.�

If school officials won�t help protect state funds, �pretty soon we�ll have lots of people who will want to take revenues away, and give revenues away, but they still feel they have an entitlement,� the governor said. �I want educators at the legislative door each year working with us to make sure that there is not that overall attempt to erode our tax base in South Dakota.�

The state has strived to keep funding to school districts constant the past two years even though enrollments are declining.

�I also put an additional $1.3 million over and above what was required by law in school funding,� he said. �It was at least enough to get us close to a 2.9 percent increase in the ongoing funds.�

Boost from feds

Rounds said a discussion of school funding in South Dakota wouldn�t be complete without mentioning allocations of federal dollars.

�Nobody is talking about that schools are also participating in a Medicare program for their kids,� he said, �and over 70 percent of the kids in 69 school districts will receive an additional $5 million in federal funds.�

Qualifying school districts can use that money, Rounds said, instead of dipping into their general funds.

The South Dakota Legislature also has created a separate line item for education enhancement funding, the governor said. The source of the revenue is the state trust fund.

�This year, there is $4.1 million in trust fund revenue that are available,� Rounds said. �If K-12 feels they can make their case to the Legislature, they can go after that money as one-time money.�

The Legislature likely will need to take about $600,000 from the trust fund to provided needed revenue for state scholarships. �Next year, they�ll have to go back to that kitty again, and fund close to $2 million for scholarships,� the governor said.

Room to negotiate

During nearly every session of the Legislature, lawmakers introduce bills in an attempt to make it easier for school districts to opt-out of the state�s property tax freeze.

Rounds said such legislation is �negotiable,� but he noted that despite the freeze, South Dakota still relies too heavily on property taxes for revenue.

�The vast majority of the property taxes goes to education,� he said. �If people are tinkering with the opt-out formula, I really don�t think there�s a magic number. It�s where consensus is found.�

Rounds said the problem grows complex in the state�s smaller communities that are surrounded by farmland. The value of the residential property in those towns, where the majority of taxpayers reside, is remaining steady.

The surrounding farmland�s value, owned by a minority of a school district�s residents, he said, is climbing in price.

�I can understand the reason why ag producers are concerned about bearing the brunt of school construction projects, particularly in small towns,� Rounds said. �I recognize the problem, but the answer must lie in a consensus.�

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