Senate Considers Plan to Substantially Increase School Facilities Funding
ST. PAUL, MINN – After years of underfunding, and stories from students and administrators about condemned theater curtains, mold, leaking roofs and crumbling outdoor tracks, the Minnesota Senate is introducing two bills that address the significant lack of facilities funding hundreds of school districts try to deal with each year.
According to data from the Department of Education, the average age of school buildings in Minnesota ranges from 15 years in Saint Michael-Albertville, to 87 years in Chisholm. Dozens of districts are sitting somewhere in between in the 40-50 year-old range. Currently the state’s system of funding for facilities repair provides inadequate revenue for most school districts in Minnesota, only one of which is working well and only for the 25 largest school districts in the state.
Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer) is familiar with this issue and helped set up a school facilities financing working group in 2013 to study the problem. As a member of the working group, Sen. Stumpf helped form a set of recommendations now being used as guidelines to write two bills that were discussed at length during a recent Senate E-12 Policy and Budget Committee hearing.
“The legislation currently under consideration will simplify the facilities funding program and make it more fair and equitable for smaller, rural school districts who have spent decades struggling to repair their aging buildings. By providing schools with more money and greater flexibility, districts will be better able to do long-term facilities maintenance planning,” said Stumpf.
There were school district officials at the meeting who explained that under the current program it would take them 30 years to just complete their most pressing maintenance needs. This refrain is repeated by districts across the state.
The two bills under consideration would:
• Establish the long-term maintenance revenue program and replace the alternative facilities, deferred maintenance and health and safety revenue programs.
• Continue the capital projects levy but provide more equalization aid, which would benefit smaller schools with low-property wealth.
For more information, Sen. Stumpf can be reached at LeRoyS@senate.mn or at (651) 296-8660.