COVID-19 means some S.D. school districts get a free pass on excessive monthly cash balances

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Education Funding

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Twenty-one of South Dakota’s 149 public school districts had monthly cash balances during the past year that were more than the legal maximum.

But none will face a penalty.

That’s because the state School Finance Accountability Board and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations adopted resolutions excluding federal COVID-19 aid from the calculations.

The waivers cover the start of the pandemic through June 30, 2023.

The state board approved its annual report Monday. The report goes next to the appropriators.

The Legislature established the board in 2016 as part of school-finance reforms intended to raise teacher salaries in South Dakota.

The appropriations members can financially penalize a school district for having too much cash on hand or for failing to sufficiently raise teacher compensation, The state board can recommend that the penalty be waived in whole or in part.

Districts that had too much cash during the 2020-2021 school year were Agar-Blunt-Onida; Bridgewater-Emery; Deubrook; Elk Mountain; Faith; Florence; Hamlin; Hoven; Irene-Wakonda; Iroquois; Lake Preston; Langford; Milbank; Mount Vernon; New Underwood; Pierre; Plankinton; Scotland; Viborg-Hurley; White Lake; and Woonsocket.

Three don’t receive state aid because local property generates too much tax revenue per student. They are Agar-Blunt-Onida; Elk Mountain; and Hoven.

All 149 districts met the teacher-compensation requirement for the past school year, according to Cody Stoeser. He’s director of finance and administration for the state Department of Education.

South Dakota’s teacher compensation — the combination of salary and benefits — for the past school year averaged $64,271, ranging from $47,671 in Rutland and $49,212 in Big Stone City, to $74,412 in Eagle Butte and $75,236 in Oglala Lakota County.

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