Senator Rod Skoe (DFL Clearbrook) leads the Senate Tax committee and as part of the overall Senate budget plan, he worked to send $150 million of the $463 million in property tax relief to the education budget. Last Thursday, he presented an amended version of SF 177 to the Senate E-12 Budget Division.
SF 177, as amended, would combine equalization aid with a local school board approved levy of up to $300 per pupil. The $300 per pupil would come off the top of a districts’ referenda authority for those who have it. For those who don’t, the $300 per pupil would be a school board authorized levy that would be heavily equalized. The goal is to get some property tax relief to districts and get those districts at the bottom of the referenda program some much needed dollars.
Metro districts are not thrilled with the proposal as it doesn’t do much for them. They are pushing the legislature to allow them to convert an additional $400 per pupil of referenda authority into the EAR program as a way to shore up their property tax base. They argue that they have higher costs of doing business in the twin cities and need some recognition of “location equity.”
While the concept of “location equity” is heavily disputed, MREA did concur with the Education Finance Reform Task Force recommendations that would have done essentially what is now before the legislature in the form of the SF 177 EAR ($300/pupil) and the amended version of HF 383.
HF 383 would allow regional centers to convert or create another $200 per pupil and the metro another $400 per pupil in local board approved levy, all while offsetting the same amounts from current referenda authority and lowering the cap at the same time.
While Sen. Skoe’s proposal is well thought out, it has a long way to go. The House won’t spend any of the $250 million property tax relief target in the education budget. Therefore, the EAR will be a Senate position, if it makes it through the April 19 budget bill deadline in conference committee.