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home : news : news April 29, 2016

6/13/2014 10:23:00 AM
AV-W administrator asks legislators to improve school funding

Arbor-Vitae Woodruff School Administrator Richard Vought has asked state legislators to alter the state’s school-funding formula.

In late May, Vought penned a letter to State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R–Hazelhurst) and State Rep. Rob Swearingen (R–Rhinelander), asking them to examine three aspects of school funding: special education, open enrollment and non-taxable land.

Vought proposed that increases in special education expenses be exempt from the state’s revenue limit formula. He noted that while the federal government mandates special education, 60 percent of such costs are funded by local property tax dollars.

“As special education costs rise, school districts are being forced to shift funding from regular education to fund special education,” Vought wrote.

Vought also suggested that schools with non-resident students receive more money. Under the present open-enrollment law, a flat fee is charged to each district for students attending other schools.

In the 2013-2014 school year, that fee was $6,485.

Vought claims that amount is far less than what some schools actually receive in aid per student.

“Thus,” Vought wrote, “these districts are making money when their students attend other schools under the open enrollment statute. The money should follow the child.”

He suggested that the formula for determining open-enrollment aid be changed so that a non-resident district receives either the flat fee or 90 percent of a resident district’s previous year’s per-pupil revenue, whichever is greater.

Last, Vought raised concerns about non-taxable property. He noted that $325 million of land in the AV-W school district is not taxable, and that the state owns $200 million of such land in the district.

“The District receives no compensation for the state ownership of this land,” Vought wrote.

He suggested that a user fee be added for permits or anyone using the state-owned land, such as harvesting timber. Revenue from that fee could then be directed to the district.

In an interview, Swearingen said he liked Vought’s ideas but was not sure how they would play in the legislature.

“The big issue is, who is going to lose the money if it gets shifted? Is it going to cost the state any extra money?” Swearingen said. “Right now is a good time to be talking about some of these things as we move on ahead into the next session in 2015.”

Tiffany did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Jonathan Anderson may be reached at janderson@lakelandtimes.com.

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