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School "ending fund balance" bill fails

The House has rejected a bill that would limit what school districts can keep in the bank. Bismarck Republican Representative Mike Nathe says the bill would cap additional funding on a calculated percentage of the previous year's expenditures. He says it would prevent school districts from hanging onto those funds at the expense of tax payers.  Nathe says many small schools in western North Dakota have very large ending fund balances.

"And I'll give you an example of one - it has close to three million dollars in it, it's a very small school - and yet they go and ask for oil impact money, a $200,000 grant, to do some improvements to their building.  They got that from the land grants - the state gave it to them.  You can't blame them for asking for it.  But the mentality is, 'we're going to keep all the money we have, and get as much as we can from the state.' That's what we need to address, and that's what this bill addresses.  To get them more in line."

Watford City Republican Representative Denton Zubke says it wouldn't be fair for the state to force school districts to spend money.

"Spend your money or lose it, that's what you need to do.  And if that's the mentality that makes sense to anybody, I'd love to have that discussion.  We constantly talk about local control, local control, local control - why don't we just make local school districts wards of the Department of Public Instruction and the Legislature?  That seems to be the direction we're going."

The bill failed in the House on a vote of 24 to 69.

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