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Senate president discusses $15 million more for schools
Senate President Mike Thibodeau floated a proposal on MPBN’s radio call-in show today that would send an additional $15 million out to school districts.
The news came during an hour-long Maine Calling program just a day after a public hearing was held on the so-called flat funding of General Purpose Aid. Flat funding actually cuts aid to 131 school districts and creates an unsustainable shift onto local property taxpayers, with an unprecedented required local mill rate for education of 8.44.
MSBA and MSSA testified Monday before the Appropriations Committee asking that $20 million in surplus state funds be sent out to schools to keep the mill rate flat.
Those cost drivers include a $12 million increase in educational costs, largely driven by federal special education maintenance of effort requirements; $6 million in additional funding going to charter schools next year; and, a $1.4 billion drop in statewide property values.
“This additional burden is being driven by circumstances out of the control of individual school districts,” said MSSA President Supt. Susan Pratt.
The committee was given copies of the spreadsheets that show the loss of aid statewide, as part of MSSA’s testimony.
“The spreadsheets you have showing distribution of state aid to all districts in Maine show two things that are significant to you as policy makers. Even with so-called flat funding of GPA, you have 131 school districts getting less this year than last and all communities are seeing their required local mill rate go up,” said Supt. Rick Colpitts of the MSSA Executive Committee.
MSBA Board Director Jerry Nault explained that charter school costs were going up from $14 million this year to $20 million next because of enrollment increases in current schools and the addition of two new schools in September. As for the declining property tax base, he described it as a lingering effect of the recession and a result of the way we use a three-year rolling average to determine the value of the base.