STMA to cities: School funding ‘not even close to fair’

City councils/school board meet in joint session

St. Michael-Albertville School Board Chairperson Doug Birk, center, stresses a point about school funding equity and property tax fairness during the recent joint meeting between the school board and St. Michael and Albertville city councils. Birk is flanked by, left to right, Supt. Jim Behle, board members Jeanne Holland and Gayle Weber, St. Michael City Clerk Diana Berning, Albertville City Administrator Adam Nafstad, and St. Michael city councilors Joe Marx and Chris Schumm. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom.)

St. Michael-Albertville School Board Chairperson Doug Birk, center, stresses a point about school funding equity and property tax fairness during the recent joint meeting between the school board and St. Michael and Albertville city councils. Birk is flanked by, left to right, Supt. Jim Behle, board members Jeanne Holland and Gayle Weber, St. Michael City Clerk Diana Berning, Albertville City Administrator Adam Nafstad, and St. Michael city councilors Joe Marx and Chris Schumm. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom.)

 

 

St. Michael-Albertville School Board member Drew Scherber, right, speaks during the school board/city councils joint meeting. Listening are Albertville City Councilor Rob Olson, left, and Albertville Mayor Jillian Schommer. (Photo by Aaron Brom)

St. Michael-Albertville School Board member Drew Scherber, right, speaks during the school board/city councils joint meeting. Listening are Albertville City Councilor Rob Olson, left, and Albertville Mayor Jillian Schommer. (Photo by Aaron Brom)

The Albertville and St. Michael city councils and St. Michael-Albertville School Board met to discuss topics of mutual interest, with the need for school funding equity and future play fields topping the list.

 

SCHOOL FUNDING

STMA Supt. Jim Behle and school board chairperson Doug Birk emphasized the urgent need for equalized school funding and property tax fairness.

Behle said the board has been taking on a greater role in bringing the matter to the forefront of public attention, both with STMA taxpayers and legislators.

“STMA taxpayers pay two to three times more for the same (per pupil) dollar than Hopkins,” Behle said, noting the disparity between property poor districts like STMA and property rich ones like Hopkins. “The state recognizes that.”

As for the per pupil funding, he said the legislature has not kept up the formula. The superintendent said if the legislature doesn’t update the formula then STMA faces program cuts and larger class sizes.

Birk said, “We can’t ignore the impact this political decision will have on our kids. “There’s confusion about asking (taxpayers) for more. We’re not asking for more. We’re saying the formula needs to be fair, and it’s not even close to fair. It’s based on political gamesmanship.”

St. Michael Mayor Jerry Zachman questioned if other school districts are also suffering, and Behle said districts close by like Big Lake and Elk River are in the same situation. He noted STMA and the under-funded districts belong to a lobbying group that is urging for equalized funding at the legislature.

 

FUTURE FIELDS

The councils and school board also discussed the need for future fields due to growth in soccer and baseball, as well as the increased popularity of lacrosse.

Supt. Behle noted that school enrollments should begin to level out, and that STMA is not expecting a lot of new growth for years. He said the district’s four-year maintenance and facility plan does not include building new fields, and that the district doesn’t have the budget to add additional maintenance staff. He said the existing fields are already stretching out the current staff.

It was discussed that there is not a formal policy that has been adopted for field usage, but generally the recognized groups and associations have been able to use the fields.

Meanwhile STMA said some outside groups have requested field time which has been turned down due to lack of availability.

 

INDUSTRIAL

EDUCATION

In other news, high school instructors Scott Danielson, Kris Rue and Roger Bovee were present with an update about technology education and engineering programs.

The spoke of advanced machines and technology that STMA students are fortunate to have. Bovee stressed the importance of community partnerships, such as from area manufacturing companies that provide scholarships, curriculum advice, equipment advice, donations, tours and guest speakers.

Bovee said the school is a Program of Excellence nominee.

“Our challenge is to teach students there are wonderful opportunities in manufacturing,” Bovee said, noting that students with two-year degrees can earn good entry level wages.

In other action, the councils and board:

HEARD an update about the STMA Families and Youth Community Connections (FYCC) group that is funded by the cities and grants or fees. FYCC also operates the BMX track, and it was noted BMX received grants last year and funded almost $20,000 of improvements to the BMX track.

HEARD that the cities are planning trail improvements this year. There will be a trail on County Rd. 119 from Gutzwiller Park to Jamison Avenue, on County Rd. 18 to Fieldstone Elementary School, and on County Rd. 34 to Beebe Lake Park.

 

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