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Impact of state shutdown could be wide-ranging

June 22, 2011
By Kremena Spengler - Staff Writer , The Journal

Editor's note: First in a series

NEW ULM The impact on District 88 of a state government shutdown is hard to determine, but it could potentially be wide-ranging, according to District 88 Superintendent Harold Remme.

Much of the impact would depend on the length of a shutdown.

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Education would be affected because an education budget bill was not agreed upon during the session, recapped Remme. The education budget bill appropriates funds for the payment of state aid to school districts and to fund ongoing operations of the Minnesota Department of Education.

The outcome of the gridlock may depend on the judicial system, and whether schools are deemed "critical services" or not, said Remme.

Gov. Mark Dayton's administration has submitted a list of critical services to the Ramsey County Court that is recommended for continued operations during a state shutdown. Schools have not been included on the list.

"Ultimately, the judicial branch of government will decide which services are critical during a time of state shutdown," said Remme.

The governor's petition will be heard in Ramsey County Court at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Unless the judicial system determines school funding to be in the critical category, state aid payments will cease as of July 1, said Remme. This will impact cash flow in school districts.

"If school-district cash reserves are inadequate, school-district contingency plans may include establishing a line of credit at local banks or the issuance of warrants to meet future financial obligations until a resolution is reached."

Education funding through state sources would be suspended for all funds, including the general, food service and community service funds.

Most District 88 employees, even those on 10-month contracts, elect to receive their pay year-round, on a bi-weekly basis (24 payments).

Summer testing and summer school could be directly affected.

The summer testing in question is the GRAD re-test in reading and math scheduled for July 5-13. Materials would not be available to conduct the test at that time.

"Funding our normal summer school programming is 'unanswered' at this time," said Remme.

"We are holding high school recovery classes now. Elementary classes are scheduled for July."

"We have no other summer services than the summer school, except for the Kids Connection program.We believe that would not be affected, as it is funded by those participating," said Remme.

In addition, based on documents received from the Minnesota Department of Education, the department will continue operation with a staff of fewer than 10 people, said Remme.

Apart from the funding issues, the MDE staffing limitations would also result in disruption of the July GRAD retests. New and renewal licensing of school staff would be delayed, potentially impacting staffing for the startup of the new school year.

"Hopefully, a resolution to the state budget stalemate will be reached by July 1," said Remme.

However, until a resolution is reached, various contingency plans will be explored locally.

Those plans may include employee layoffs or furloughs, curtailment of contracted maintenance projects, and suspension of orders for supplies and other materials, said Remme.



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