Legislative agenda OK’d

by Jim Boyle

The Elk River Area School Board approved on Feb. 13 a legislative platform, which includes one plank to chase dollars that are given to the school districts in the seven-county metro area.

“Metro Equity Region Factor” (MERF) provides for students residing within the seven-county metro districts.

The MERF is an existing state law that provides school district offices located in the metro counties of Anoka, Hennepin, Carver, Dakota, Ramsey, Scott and Washington to receive additional funding.

The ISD 728 District Office is located in Sherburne County.

Superintendent Mark Bezek says because 3,390 district students reside in Anoka and Hennepin counties, ISD 728 should receive equitable funding.

If passed, at current enrollment figures ISD 728 would receive an additional $105,000 in annual funding from the state.  The bill would become effective for fiscal year 2013.

The Elk River Area School District at one point considered moving the district offices to the Rogers area or into Anoka County in hopes of drawing additional funding.

Blesener said with the help of people like Joel Carlson, the district’s legislative lobbyist, the proposed legislation has been massaged into a ready-to-go format for a any legislator willing to pick it up and run with it.

The second plank of the district’s platform seeks the authority to make permanent transfers totaling 80 percent of the balance on the date of the first transfer from its debt redemption fund balance without making a levy reduction.

This funds transfer bill is a roll-over request from the last session. The Elk River district is requesting that restricted debt service reserve funds be freed up to be transferred to the General Fund. The fund is currently at $3.67 million.

The district is requesting a permanent transfer totaling up to 80 percent of the balance, or approximately $2.9 million, without making a levy reduction. These one-time funds would then be used for operating purposes. The bill would cover the period July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013.