FFM Bulletin 1/18/11

Fairmont Area Schools facing funding challenges

The Fairmont Area Schools are on the verge of entering Statutory Operating Debt (SOD). Under state law, a school district enters SOD when the district’s operating debt is more than 2.5 percent of the its expenditures, meaning that their debt, as a proportion of their budget, is approaching the point where the state steps in and takes a more active role. In recent years, there have been roughly 20-40 districts in the state operating in SOD.
Fairmont has had several referendums (both operating and capital) in the past few years with varying success. In mid-2010 they passed a fairly major capital referendum for a new elementary school and an addition to an existing elementary school.  All the while, the district is facing rapidly declining enrollment.
Last September, Superintendent Joe Brown proposed the idea of bringing the Q-Comp program to the district as a way to increase revenue to the district. The district was unsuccessful in passing a Q-Comp agreement two years ago.
Another interesting side note: the district has said that one problem is that they ramped up operations in a variety of ways due to the infusion of federal stimulus funds, but now are faced with those funds drying up. If you recall, those of us that opposed the federal stimulus package did so because it offered short-term solutions to long-term problems and propped up the public sector at the expense of all others. Now we’ve seen that Fairmont Area Schools are the latest example of that.

Short Takes

Rochester Public Utilities (a division of the City of Rochester) just became the first utility in the state to install a public charging station for electric cars. And they have plans to install at least a couple more. Now all they need are the electric cars. According to the KAAL-TV story, the city had trouble finding a car to use for their public demonstration. Ironically, the city contacted the county, which owns one of the few electric cars in Olmsted County. Now that the City of St. Paul has added an electric car to its fleet, it appears Rochester officials have another option for future demonstrations. But only if several cities along Highway 52 also have government-paid-for charging stations.

The St. Cloud Times reported the City of St. Cloud has hired a firm to attract a carrier to its airport. The St. Cloud Regional Airport has been without commercial service since Delta Air Lines left in December 2009. The city is in jeopardy of losing a $1 million per year grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for capital improvements if they do not secure a carrier by the end of the year. As FFM previously reported, the airport was averaging one charter flight and 130 passengers in the newly remodeled facility paid for last year by stimulus and other federal funds. 

Apply for the Koch Summer Fellow Program! Deadline: January 31

The deadline for the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellowship program is coming up quickly! The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has teamed with the program for the past several years in placing research fellows at our organization. The 10-week program is a paid public policy internship running from June 4- August 12 and is open to undergraduates, recent graduates, and graduate students. Participants will attend weeklong career and policy seminars in Washington DC, as well as weekly lectures on specific policy issues.  The Koch Summer Fellow Program is ideal for those looking to gain real-world experience while advancing liberty. For more information, visit http://www.theIHS.org/MNfreedom


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