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State funding shift a concern for Park Rapids District

"The district continues to be in the banking business," Park Rapids school superintendent Glenn Chiodo told the board this week.

He is referring to the budget agreement between Republican leadership and Governor Mark Dayton that's calling for a 60-40 funding shift to the state's K-12 schools.

The proposed bill would require a $700 million shift in school funding.

"And there's no plans to pay us back," Chiodo said. "That's the scary part."

Schools in the state will go from the current 70-30 shift to a 60-40 shift next year. Districts will receive 60 percent of this year's funding with a "promise" of 40 percent the following year.

This will increase the district's borrowing to $1.2 million, Chiodo said. "This is not unusual. But it's a little bit alarming that the interest cannot be recouped. And they have no idea how to pay us back," he said.

"In all probability, it seems that they will run with it," he said of discussions this week. "They've been doing this for a number of years," he said of "shuffling the deck.

"It's concerning when politicians don't see that it's the public that's ultimately burned on this," he said of the need for operating referendums or kids affected by cutbacks. "But it goes on year after year after year. We will do the best with the worst. We will be okay," he emphasized.

But he noted on a statewide basis, schools are now "borrowing to survive. That's changed dramatically. We are now financial institutions as opposed to educational institutions."

Park Rapids' enrollment, however, looks solid, he said. "It's the X factor that makes superintendents uneasy."