Don’t lead through fear: Money is available for school payments

By: 
ELSIE ARNTZEN
State Superintendent of Schools

There has been uncertainty placed on local schools surrounding their state aid payments in November. As State Superintendent, I intend to fulfill my legal responsibility to initiate these payments. As state officials, we must not lead through fear. The state treasury has ample funds to fulfill Montana’s statutory obligation to pay our local public schools.

There are 10 state payment distributions which are set in law. November’s estimated payment of $125.4 million includes the Guaranteed Tax Base Aid along with School and County Block Grants. The timing of this payment schedule was created in coordination with the Board of Public Education and the Governor’s office.

Through my 12 years of legislative experience, I know that there is flexibility in the way that we manage our state’s finances. Montana’s Legislative Fiscal Division recently made available a document which explains the general fund month end cash balance. It states; “When cash shortfalls occur, law allows the state to temporarily borrow from other state funds. The executive tracks cash and borrows when needed. While in theory $13.7 billion is potentially available for borrowing, $633.7 million in the treasury cash account is the most easily accessible.”

School funding should not be politicized. Our parents, schools, taxpayers, and communities deserve honest, transparent conversations during the state’s budget negotiations. It has been my goal to provide stability and solutions for our local school districts. Montana owes it to our students not to lead through fear.

 

Elsie Arntzen is the State Superintendent of Schools.

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