Governor's budget worries Dickinson school officialsDickinson Public Schools officials fear that Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s proposed budget could have profound and unknown effects on funding sources, and that it could bring shocking tax bills to residents should the state’s coffers dry up.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson Public Schools officials fear that Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s proposed budget could have profound and unknown effects on funding sources, and that it could bring shocking tax bills to residents should the state’s coffers dry up.
School Board Budget Committee members met Thursday morning at the Central Administration Building to discuss the governor’s Wednesday budget address.
“We feel the most important thing that they can do is maximize the per-pupil payment,” Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep said. “Just put the money in there, let the formula work, equity, adequacy and don’t dabble around with a bunch of other funds and bunch of other new ideas.”
Dalrymple’s plan to lower property taxes has been to buy mills from the schools. In the last biennium, the state paid for about 75 mills. In the governor’s proposal, he would like to add 60 more mills to that amount.
“Within the governor’s proposal, it looks to me like the money that’s going from the state to pay down property taxes is static money,” Reep said. “It takes away the growth in taxable valuation.”
Reep also said it appears the amount of money the schools would receive would be capped, adding that DPS would have to appeal to the Legislature for more funding.
If schools become dependent on state funds in the form of mill buy backs for property tax relief and that program ends, it could result in high tax bills for residents later on, he said.
“The forecast looks good, but let’s just say that happened,” Reep said. “They would drop that money and say, ‘Now go ahead and levy again.’ That would be a bitter pill to swallow in my opinion.”
North Dakota law allows schools to levy up to 185 mills, he said. If the state buys 60 more mills from districts, it leaves them to levy 50 mills at full value.
The value of a mill varies per city/county based on state formulas, Reep said in a previous meeting.
The state is buying mills at the state average, which is lower than Dickinson’s mill value.
“We haven’t seen the detail,” he said, adding he hopes enrollment is figured into the equation as the Legislature works out funding.
“At ($35,100), which is our beginning teachers’ salary this year, it’s tough competition to get people to come here, especially when they’re going to pay two grand a month in rent, they can’t.”
Budget Committee Chairwoman and School Board member Leslie Ross encouraged anyone who can make an impact to speak to the Legislature.
“We want our position and our point of view and our needs to be addressed,” she said.
Reep agreed, adding that legislators tend to listen better when school board members, patrons and parents speak to them versus administrators.
In an effort to increase the interest accrued on DPS’ financial holdings, the Budget Committee heard a presentation from American Bank Center Vice President Tom Wyckoff about moving funds into a money market account.
“Every month when I reconcile the interest earned, it hurts in that I remember what it was three years ago,” Reep said. “It was triple — we earn about $1,600 a month on $19 million in the bank, and if we can earn $3,200 on that, it’s a better deal.”
The committee agreed to bring the proposal to the full board, which meets 5 p.m. Monday.
“There’s no negative, there’s relatively low to no risk, no fees, we’re doubling our interest,” Ross said. “I don’t see any reason why not to.”