Gov. Dayton orders flags at half-staff in honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

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Source: Office of Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith

Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Thursday, December 7, 2017, as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in Minnesota, in honor of the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the more than 2,400 Americans who lost their lives in these attacks.

Gov. Dayton has ordered all U.S. flags and Minnesota flags be flown at half-staff at all state and federal buildings in the state of Minnesota, from sunrise until sunset on Thursday, December 7, 2017, in honor and remembrance of those who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who sacrificed their lives for our liberty and freedom during World War II.

Access a copy of Gov. Dayton’s proclamation.

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2017 Border-to-Border Broadband Grants awarded

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Source: Office of Broadband Development

Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced the 2017 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant recipients on November 21, bringing an early Thanksgiving to 39 broadband infrastructure projects that will provide 9,973 households, 2,169 businesses, and 60 community institutions across Minnesota access to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet.

The grants total $26 million and project construction needs to be completed by June, 2020.

The funding comes from a combination of $20 million approved during the 2017 legislative session, plus carryover from previous grant rounds. It goes to broadband providers and communities to build out wireline and fixed wireless broadband infrastructure to Greater Minnesota.

DEED’s ability to offer the grant program in 2018 will depend on whether the state legislature appropriates funding during the 2018 session.

Access the full news release.

Access the list of grant recipients and other grant information.

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Tax reform update: U.S. Senate passes legislation paving way for conference committee

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The U.S. Senate passed its version of H.R. 1, the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), by a 51-49 vote early Saturday morning.

MSBA has concerns lawmakers are creating a potential tax structure that offers tax breaks and benefits for the few — at the price of supporting state and local efforts to invest in vital areas, including education.

The full extent of the impact the proposed changes will have on local decision-making and resources available for public services is unclear; the threat it poses to students, parents and communities is very real. Limiting the current state and local tax deductions and providing tax advantages for private school tuition accounts is a significant step in the wrong direction.

Districts already operate with limited resources to provide students with educational (and other necessary) support. Too many neighborhood schools struggle to balance diverse, growing populations with recessionary levels of funding. School infrastructure, teacher training, curriculum, transportation, health services, counseling, public and student safety measures, and other vital services — which are all funded by state and local taxes — are placed at risk by these proposed changes in federal tax law.

NSBA and MSBA urge Congress to put students, parents, and communities first as the House and Senate bills move to conference,” said Denise Dittrich, MSBA’s Associate Director of Government Relations. “Together, we stand against any tax proposal that negatively impacts local decision-makers’ ability to govern and operate in the best interests of our country’s students and the American taxpayer.”

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Minnesota Office of School Trust Lands announces new website

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Source: Minnesota Office of School Trust Lands

The Minnesota Office of School Trust Lands is pleased to announce the launch of its new website at www.mn.gov/school-trust-lands. 

This is the first-ever website devoted to the state’s 3.5 million acres of school trust lands — an important, little known, and often misunderstood category of land ownership and school funding. These lands are set aside in the state constitution and deliver tens of millions of dollars annually to Minnesota’s K-12 public school districts. 

The new website has a clean uncluttered design offering quick and easy access to essential information.

Key features include details about:

  • The fascinating history and unique purpose of school trust lands;
  • Management activities generating revenue to support public schools; and
  • Current projects and future revenue opportunities.

The website has a specific section devoted to the trust’s beneficiaries — the state’s more than 850,000 K-12 public school students. Here, users can utilize an interactive map to learn how much annual revenue their individual school district receives from the school trust fund. 

“We are thrilled to launch our new website and strongly feel it will serve as a useful, informative portal for telling the story about the state’s school trust lands and the benefits they provide to Minnesota’s schools. As trustees, it is incumbent upon us to provide accessible and accurate information to everybody with a shared interest in public education and this unique form of school funding.” — Aaron Vande Linde, Director, Minnesota Office of School Trust Lands

ABOUT THE MINNESOTA OFFICE OF SCHOOL TRUST LANDS: The Minnesota Office of School Trust Lands was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 2012. The Office has three core functions: (1) it serves in an advisory role to the Governor, Executive Council, Land Exchange Board and Department of Natural Resources on school trust management activities, (2) works in conjunction with the Legislative Permanent School Fund Commission on legislation to improve school trust land assets, and (3) develops long range strategic plans to ensure the state’s school trust natural resources are optimally managed for current and future beneficiaries.

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NSBA Action Alert: Talk to your U.S. senator about tax-reform legislation

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Source: National School Boards Association

As the U.S. Senate moves forward to consider its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is calling on public school board members to take action to oppose efforts that would affect resources for our nation’s public school students and local districts.

Recently, the House moved to pass its tax reform bill (H.R. 1). The Senate is aiming to take the same action soon. Now more than ever, we need your voice in the debate.

As a local school board member and/or leading public education advocate, urge your senator to reject measures that would limit full deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT), divert public funds away from public education, and eliminate investments in our students, school leaders and school infrastructure.

Please visit https://www.nsba.org/advocacy/take-action and take action today.

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Minnesota Department of Education Releases Revenue Disparity Report

Early today, Commissioner Cassellius released the general revenue disparity report, as required by Minnesota Statutes, section 127A.51, which provides that:

By December 1 of each year the commissioner must estimate the statewide average adjusted general revenue per adjusted pupil unit and the disparity in adjusted general revenue among pupils and districts by computing the ratio of the 95th percentile to the fifth percentile of adjusted general revenue. The commissioner must provide that information to all districts.

If the disparity in adjusted general revenue as measured by the ratio of the 95th percentile to the fifth percentile increases in any year, the commissioner shall recommend to the legislature options for change in the general education formula that will limit the disparity in adjusted general revenue to no more than the disparity for the previous school year. The commissioner must submit the recommended options to the education committees of the legislature by February 1.

For purposes of this section and section 126C.10, adjusted general revenue means the sum of basic revenue under section 126C.10, subdivision 2; referendum revenue under section 126C.17; local optional revenue under section 126C.10, subdivision 2e; and equity revenue under section 126C.10, subdivisions 24a and 24b. 

 

This report is based on actual data for Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 through 2016, and estimates for Fiscal Year 2017 through 2019.

The report shows that the ratio of the ninety-fifth percentile to the fifth percentile increases from 1.178 in FY 2017 to 1.186 in FY 2018 and decreases to 1.181 in FY 2019. In addition to the required reporting of the statewide average adjusted general revenue per pupil unit and the range between the fifth and ninety-fifth percentiles, information on other percentiles is included to provide a more complete picture of the distribution of adjusted general revenue among pupils and districts. The ratio of the ninetieth to the tenth percentile remained constant between FY 2017 and FY 2018 at 1.172 and decreases to 1.169 in FY 2019. The ratio of the School District Superintendents ninety-ninth to first percentile increases between FY 2017 and FY 2018 from 1.273 to 1.274 and decreases in FY 2019 to 1.267.

The decrease in general education revenue disparities between FY 2015 and FY 2016 when location equity/local optional revenue is included is the result of legislation enacted in 2014 which changed location equity revenue to local optional revenue and made $424 per pupil unit available to all districts statewide, regardless of geographic location or district pupil unit size.

A spreadsheet is available on the Minnesota Department of Education website that shows the data for each district in computing the statewide summary statistics for Fiscal Year 2015 through 2019. From the MDE Home page, select Data Center > Data and Analytics. Scroll down to School Finance Spreadsheets and select General Education. Choose Category General Education; Subcategory Revenue Disparities and Year 2017.

Questions concerning this report should be directed to Michael Schwartz (michael.schwartz@state.mn.us), Division of School Finance, at 651-582-8399 or Tom Melcher (tom.melcher@state.mn.us), School Finance Director, at 651-582-8828.

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MSBA’s 2017 referenda analysis

BONDS

On Election Day, we had 41 districts going out for a bond or capital project levy request. 28 of those 41 were approved (a 68% approval rate). For fall bond issues, this is the highest approval rating since 2014. However, when the failing bonds from the rest of the calendar year are figured in, 38 of 67 bond and capital project levies were approved for the year. That’s a 56.7% approval rating. Better than last year, but not a strong showing when matched up with the average 68% approval ratings in the past 10 years.

Large requests

This fall we had six bond requests that were $100 million or more – by far the most over that $100 million mark than ever before. Only Northfield lost their $109 million request 3,467 to 4,436. Otherwise, Anoka-Hennepin passed the largest bond ever in the state at $249 million. And this was no nail-biter – it was approved by a 2 to 1 margin 16,579 to 8,675. Actually, the five $100 million plus requests all passed very handily (St. Louis Park’s passed by a 5 to 1 margin).

Capital project levies for technology

Eight of the 10 capital project levies for technology passed this year, most by a good margin. It shows people understand that to prepare students for the workforce, they need to know how to use technology. Rockford Area’s request that failed was fairly close. The only request to not gain good approval was Greenbush-Middle River, which lost 257-754.

Ag tax credit and its role in bonds

During the first part of the year, without the ag tax credit, 19 districts asked for bond help. Only 5 passed. (a 26% passage rate – lowest ever). After the ag tax kicked in, 28 of 41 requests passed in November, as well as 5 of 7 in August and September. That’s 33 of 48 requests being approved after the ag tax kicked in. (69% passage rate).

Some could say that’s a major factor, but I’d say it’s a minor factor. It did help, but if you look at the list of school districts that failed with bond referenda in November, 11 of the 13 that failed were GREATER MINNESOTA DISTRICTS. The bigger problem for small, rural districts remains – they don’t have the tax base that an Edina or Anoka-Hennepin has to spread the costs of a bond referenda. Until that is equalized, rural districts will continue to face a harder time passing bonds.

 

OPERATING LEVIES

Operating levies did very well this year, with 44 of 53 districts passing an operating levy request. (83% passage rate). Only three times since 2000 have operating levy passage rates hit 80 percent or above. It wasn’t quite the 90.4% passage rate record of 2015, but pretty close.

Renewals

Twenty of the 53 districts were simply renewing the operating levy at no tax increase to residents. ALL 20 PASSED. This continues a trend where renewals are becoming an almost automatic approval.

Close votes

There were three operating levies that either passed or failed by small amounts. Pipestone’s request for a $250 operating levy increase failed by just ONE vote. Triton’s request failed by just 24 votes 455-479. The other one was Mankato’s operating levy that passed 2,878 to 2,849 –29 votes.

Again with the discrepancy between urban and Greater Minnesota districts

If you look at the nine districts that failed to win approval for their operating levy, EIGHT of the nine were in Greater Minnesota. Only Rockford Area in the metro failed on an operating levy. This continues a three-year streak where Greater Minnesota districts have a harder time passing operating levies.

Some may say that the increases they were asking for were too much. But then I look at Onamia: They asked for a simple $52 increase in their operating levy. It went down by more than a 2-1 vote.

Multiple questions

How did multiple questions on the ballot work – for a majority, it worked. Five of seven districts asking multiple operating levy questions passed both. Six of seven passed at least one question. Splitting requests into 2 questions didn’t help Pipestone or Red Wing. In Red Wing, both went down. Pipestone’s second question for an increase went down by 1 vote.

CLOSING NOTES

Overall, this was a good year for schools. But the nagging difference between suburban/urban and Greater Minnesota passage rates is still there.

It also shows that districts continue to do better in odd-year referenda elections. If we look at 2010-2017, the odd year approval percentage for operating levies is 79% in 2011, 86.4% in 2013, 90.4% in 2015 and 83% this year. For even years, the approval percentage is 56% in 2010, 73% in 2012, 76% in 2014 and 69% in 2016. Odd years pass at least 5% higher and sometimes up to 15% higher than in even years. Why? You don’t fight the clutter of national politics, so you have a better chance of telling people WHY you need the money. If people don’t know about the levy and see it on the ballot, they’re more likely to vote NO. If they know what the money is for, they’re more likely to vote YES.

Lastly, the ag tax credit did seem to help a bit. However poor tax bases in many Greater Minnesota school districts are holding down approval rates. In those districts, even small amounts can have a big impact on taxes.

 

 

 

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