This is the second week of the legislative session and committees hit the ground running with the first committee deadline just two weeks away. Proposals are starting to emerge to deal with the $1.2 billion surplus with growing support to repeal controversial business-to-business taxes passed last year. Other big issues expected to be a focal point include tax conformity, bonding, a minimum wage increase, transportation funding, funding increases for our caregivers, issues with MNsure, a new Senate Office Building and the controversial Safe and Supportive Schools Act.
Last week, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released the updated February forecast showing a budget surplus of $1.233 billion for the remainder of the biennium. Since November, revenues have increased by $366 million and spending projections have decreased by $48 million. Higher income and sales estimates account for almost all of the gain. Growth in Minnesota employment and income adds to the forecast revenue.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Minnesota’s 2014 Legislative Session convened in St. Paul and lawmakers came together to work on a number of issues. A few of the bigger topics the House and Senate will tackle this year include the Bonding bill, tax reform, Safe and Supportive Schools Act, and an increase in the minimum wage.
Lawmakers are optimistic and looking for a speedy session since the release of the most recent economic forecast. The Minnesota Management and Budget office announced an even larger surplus than was expected in December. The latest numbers indicate a positive balance of $1.233 billion for the fiscal years 2014-2015. With increased revenue projections and decreasing spending projections, the February Forecast improved by $408 million from the last forecast.
Gov. Mark Dayton and leaders of the House and Senate DFL majorities have outlined their budget priorities, but they still have to come to consensus before anything gets approved. Some of the priorities include the repeal of the (B2B) business to business tax increases passed last year, providing middle-income tax relief, and building the state’s reserve accounts.
There’s a buzz circulating in small-town USA, and I’m not talking about the anticipation of Justin Bieber’s upcoming birthday. I came across a new item at the grocery store. There, between the strawberries and pre-cut watermelon, sat an unassuming bag containing three fruits. At first glance, I thought they were apples because that’s what they looked like. Then I saw the label: “grapples.”
I read the word with a short “a” so it rhymed with, well, apples. The association seemed pretty obvious. Upon further inspection, I noted the label provided instructions to give the word a long “a” as in, well, grapes. You know you’ve invented a new vocabulary word when you’ve got to tell people how to pronounce it. Problem is, that was a few days ago and I’m still stuck on the short “a.” Some people never learn. You say gray-pull I say grap-pul.
The 2014 legislative session began on Tuesday, Feb. 25, and concludes on Monday, May 19. There are a couple of key items that I’d like to share with you.
The Safe and Supportive Schools Act (anti-bullying bill) will be a hot topic in this session. Keep in mind that the Eden
Valley-Watkins school district staff and educators across the state believe that every child deserves to attend a school that is safe and supportive. You may have read of some concerns that revolve around the details of implementing and the lack of funding for that implementation. Most notably, the limits to the 37-word state statute that prohibits bullying behaviors. Currently, the EV-W district has a six-page policy that guides and directs our efforts to prevent bullying behaviors. Our policy provides:
• Purpose: prevent behaviors and conduct that interferes with students’ ability to learn
• General Statement: addresses technology, teasing, threats, defaming, or terrorizing
• Reporting: is the first step to prevent bullying, and information is confidential
• Action: includes investigations, applicable law, consequences and private data
• Education: the district provides resources, notifications, and initiatives to prevent bullying
In conversations with your area legislators, please reinforce that we have always embraced the fact that all students need to be in a safe environment in order to maximize their learning.
Education Minnesota is also making the news as they’re in the process of forwarding a health insurance transparency bill. Apparently, the bill would require school districts to solicit sealed bids from at least three insurance companies for their health insurance coverage, and PEIP must be one of the companies. It sounds like this bill will be faced with an interesting journey with all of the challenges and impact put forth by MNsure.
Thank you in advance for your involvement during this session. Remember, you are the only one that can tell your personal story of how specific pieces of legislation will impact the children and staff in our district. Regardless of the position you hold, each of you has a unique perspective. Please do not hesitate to share that perspective with your legislators.
This is a busy time of year for school board members and administration as we get into our financial planning phase for the upcoming school year. This is a difficult process as school districts are required to adopt an annual budget in June while they wait for proposed legislation or anticipated revenue cuts from the state, and don’t receive final notification until the middle of May when the legislative session ends. As a result, our board continues to monitor the current legislative session, budget status, and make recommendations if necessary.
In order to maintain fiscal responsibility for the school district, we’ll continue to gather valuable data to guide our decision-making process with a common goal of increasing student achievement levels. We plan to review projected enrollment numbers, revenue assumptions, anticipated expenditures, program staffing, appropriate class size, contracts, and potential legislative action. The majority of the planning and budgeting takes place during the months of February and March, and as usual, your input and questions are always appreciated.
Senior of the Week
The EV-W School District would like to recognize Tori Pauls, daughter of DeeAnn. Tori is enrolled in a number of college and honors classes, and is very involved with her church. She also takes part in the EV-W softball program and volunteers with Big Brothers-Big Sisters. The Eden Valley-Watkins administration, faculty and staff are extremely proud of her accomplishments. Congratulations!
I woke up this morning and looked at the thermometer. Good grief it’s 15 below zero, again. This has got to be the winter from hell! I’m so sick of winter I wanna scream!
I busied myself with various tasks: carrying in wood, carrying out ashes, shoveling snow and cussing. As the day went on, the sun was shining and the temperature started to rise. I did some more work. Then around 3:30 p.m. I looked at the thermometer again and it was 10 degrees above zero. Wow! I gazed out the window and then my legs took off and the next thing you know, I was hiking in the woods. I walked on the deer trails where the snow was packed and would carry my weight without sinking in. My, oh my, I hadn’t done that since last November just before the first foot of snow fell.