by Jim Boyle
Joel Carlson has recommended the Elk River Area School District expand its approach to lobbying the Minnesota Legislature for financial help.
The lobbyist for the local school system explained Monday night that although the district has conditioned legislators to growth issues ISD 728 has faced, he said he now believes the focus needs to shift more to debt and declining net tax capacity.
The net impact of this suggested approach is that proposed legislation would benefit more districts than just their own, and it turn increases the asking price of any such legislation.
Carlson, who has carried the district’s legislative agenda for several years, made his desires known at the Jan. 17 work session of the Elk River Area School Board. He will be back at the next regular meeting of the School Board to make a formal recommendation.
Districts that find themselves in similar positions with high debt loads sapping the ability for local tax dollars making it to the classroom include Big Lake, St. Michael-Albertville and Farmington.
Carlson said the advantage of broadening the effort is more lobbying horsepower with that could come from other districts lending support and legislation that local lawmakers will find attractive because more of their districts could benefit.
“We’d be changing the concept of debt equalization,” Carlson said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers at the Legislature have spoken of addressing equity.
Carlson said the Elk River Area School District’s lobbying effort need not suggest how the state comes up with greater equity in funding, but rather just making its needs and the needs of the other similar districts known.
Carlson is also recommending the school district continue to seek a fund balance transfer that it sought in the last legislative session. Transfers are less controversial because they don’t require the Legislature to authorize additional funding.