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Richfield School Officials Relieved That State Shutdown Wouldn't Freeze Funding

School officials report readiness for next year regardless of a state budget impasse.

Chief Judge for Ramsey County District Court Kathleen Gearin in the event of a government shutdown.

Under the umbrella of services Gearin decided were crucial to government’s core functioning—and thus must remain operation—her ruling stated that, because the Minnesota constitution requires a “general and uniform system of public schools,” education funding was a “critical core” function of state government and would continue in the event of a shutdown. Should members of the legislature and fail to reach a budget accord by 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 1, 2011 parts of the government would shut their doors.

While welcoming the news, administrators for Richfield schools said the ruling doesn’t immediately affect the Richfield Public School District. Michael Schwartz, business manager for the district, said that while it was difficult to plan for specific scenarios too far ahead of time since school funding sources can vary so wildly, the school board and district had together taken steps to ensure funding and Richfield public schools would continue uninterrupted.

“That’s good news—that the district is going to get its funding—so obviously it’s better to get money than not, but we’ve prepared ourselves regardless,” Schwartz said Wednesday.

“[The court’s decision] means we don’t have to borrow money sooner,” said District Superintendent Bob Slotterback.

A concern surrounding borrowing money for the district is the additional interest, which can be anywhere from $10,000 to over $100,000, depending on the loan, Slotterback reported.

State aid in the district’s 2011-2012 budget accounted for approximately 67 percent of revenues. As by Patch, the school board had already made up a contingency plan to sell up to $13 million in bonds in case the shutdown led to limited or uneven aid state payments from the state. It now appears as if that resolution, passed by the school board at its June 13 meeting, will be unnecessary.

One education institution that will be affected is the Department of Education, which will be forced to “basically shut down,” according to Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.

But, with funding in place at least through September 2011 even before Wednesday morning’s ruling, Slotterback said the Department of Education’s shutdown wouldn’t affect Richfield or other school districts in the short-run.

Where Slotterback is expecting to see an impact from any government shutdown is at the individual level.

“Individually some of our families will be laid off, so our free and reduced lunch population might increase if [the shutdown] extends for any time,” he said. “But from an organization point, it doesn’t impact us.”

Slotterback ended by saying, “We’ll be ready when the school year starts."

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