WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published March 26, 2013, 12:36 PM

Grand Forks schools lose federal dollars

Grand Forks Public Schools received $2.2 million in federal funding to support students from military families this year, or about half of what they expected, according to district officials Monday.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Public Schools received $2.2 million in federal funding to support students from military families this year, or about half of what they expected, according to district officials Monday.

The federal Impact Aid funding for the district has been declining in recent years because of a drop in enrollment in schools on the Grand Forks Air Force Base, housing there and a lack of money for the program itself, Superintendent Larry Nybladh told School Board members at their Monday meeting.

The money compensates local school districts that lose property tax revenue because of tax-exempt federal property or covers costs related to educating federally connected children, such as those who live on the base.

Funding supports basic needs such as hiring teachers, paying for utilities and buying textbooks.

Although the Grand Forks Air Force Base has two schools — Carl Ben Eielson and Twining Elementary and Middle School — funding applies to students who also attend schools in town.

Districts receive this aid based on the amount of federal property in their jurisdiction. This year, 525 total students live on base, while 78 live in town.

More money is given to students who live on the base compared to those who live in town. The district loses about 80 percent of potential Impact Aid because of the privatization and demolition of housing at the base, which now is at maximum capacity, Nybladh said.

“It’s currently a bit of a conundrum for our district because we try to maintain the schools in hopes of supporting new and expanding (Air Force) missions, then find out there’s no housing to support the personnel,” he said. “Hopefully, there will be some remedy. If not, we’ll expect to see flat funding at best with impact aid in the future.”

More money

By next year, the total number of students who live on base will have dropped to 463, or a little under half who attended school in 2008-2009. The district expects to receive that year anywhere from $2.5 million to $3.5 million in Impact Aid. This includes the effect of mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget.

But Nybladh said more money could be on the way. If Congress acts this week to appropriate funding for the program, the school could get an additional $1 million this year to help reduce the deficit caused by overestimating how much Impact Aid it would receive.

The district received $1.2 million less than expected in Impact Aid last year.

In addition, Nybladh said if the state provides more funding for K-12 education it will help offset the loss, though Impact Aid provides “two to one” more funding per pupil than state funding.

Nybladh first heard about the loss in impact aid in October. Districts aren’t given advance notice of what funding will be available — Impact Aid is only given during the school’s current year — and school boards are often forced to move ahead with purchases without knowing how much of it will be covered, he said.

Tags: