Sen. Tony Kinkel, DFL-Park Rapids, will meet with area school officials at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at Longville Elementary School to hear their concerns about state funding of school facilities.
Kinkel will meet with representatives of the Remer-Longville, Pine River-Backus and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley school districts.
Mike Doro, Superintendent of the Remer-Longville School District, said these school districts share a common funding problem: low-income student populations and high tax capacity.
Tax capacity is the difference between actual sale prices of property and area property assessments.
"Sales price bears little relationship to the income earned by property owners," said Doro, "especially in areas like ours with a lot of resort and recreational property. As a result, we have a high tax capacity, which makes us ineligible for state aid when we try to pass a bond for school facilities. But our residents don't have the income to pay the higher taxes -- without the state aid -- and it is nearly impossible to get a bond passed."
Kinkel said he, too, is concerned about the unfairness of school funding laws.
"We all know that schools are the lifeblood of rural communities," he said. "And school facilities are a vital component of education. We have several examples in Senate District 4 of schools that are filled way beyond capacity, but can't get any financial support for expanding or renovating buildings for more space. Walker, Remer and Pine River have repeatedly lost building referenda. Walker badly needs to renovate its high school and Remer needs more space for both a high school and an elementary school.
"It's a frustrating situation for the adults working in and managing the schools," he said, "but more importantly, it's a lost learning opportunity for students.
"A bill is moving through a Senate committee which may help these area schools," Kinkel added. "I want to hear more about these facility funding issues so I can take the message back to St. Paul about how school funding inequities are playing out in the school buildings of northern Minnesota."
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