Posted at 12:29 PM on July 20, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Pushing back payments to schools to help close a budget gap was not ideal but is manageable for schools and will not harm classrooms, a key Senate Republican said Wednesday.
The budget deal delays about $700 million in payments for short-term budget savings. That's on top of $1.4 billion in payments to schools that were delayed to save money in the prior two-year budget. Collectively, Minnesota public schools are now owed $2.1 billion in delayed payments from the state.
"Superintendents will tell you that shifts are not unmanageable," Hann said this morning. "It does not take any money away from education....I have yet to meet a school superintendent who's told me the shift isn't workable...It does not do harm but it is not an ideal situation."
Superintendents and other education leaders last week expressed frustration and anger that the budget agreement would delay even more payments to schools and force districts to borrow in the short term to cover current needs. Some questioned whether the state could be trusted to ever deliver on its promise to send schools the delayed funds.
Asked about when the state will send the schools the money being withheld, Hann said no one can predict because it depends on how the economy responds. "It entirely depends on the recovery of the economy and the ability to produce revenues in excess of spending," Hann said.
Several callers challenged Hann on his belief that the shift will cause no harm to schools and said districts will have to borrow money in the short term to cover the cash withheld in the budget deal.
Hahn acknowledged some districts might need to do some short term borrowing but noted that the Legislature provided $50 per pupil to help cover borrowing costs and that districts have reserves they can tap.
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