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School-funding increases moving ahead at Capitol

PIERRE — A legislative panel endorsed a small but significant change in state policy for helping fund public schools Friday.

The House Education Committee recommended passage of a 2 percent minimum increase annually in the per-student allocation.

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The current state law calls for the allocation to increase by the rate of inflation up to 3 percent.

Only twice has the annual increase been less than 2 percent, according to testimony during the committee hearing.

Those times were in 2011 and 2012.

The 11-4 vote by the panel means HB 1003 now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

The bill came from the interim committee that studied the school-aid funding formula last summer and fall.

“We constantly heard the need for stability from our administrators and superintendents,” said Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke. He served on the interim panel.

The Daugaard administration opposes the legislation. Jim Terwilliger, the economist for the governor’s Bureau of Finance and Management, said the 2 percent guarantee would erode property-tax relief.

Each district’s enrollment is multiplied by the per-student allocation amount, which currently is $4,626 for the 2013-14 school year. That determines the local need.

Each year the Legislature passes a set of standard property-tax levies for general education that apply in every school district. If the property tax revenue doesn’t cover a district’s local need, state aid covers the rest.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proposed a 3 percent increase in the allocation for the 2014-15 school year. That would be $4,764.42 per student.

The interim committee proposed a slightly larger increase that would restore the allocation to $4,805. That is the amount that was in place before the 2011 budget cuts.

The $4,805 legislation is pending in the House Appropriations Committee. The House Education Committee voted 13-2 to transfer the bill, HB 1004, there.

“I was very encouraged about that,” said Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City. She chaired the interim committee and is chairwoman of the House Education Committee.