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Board of Ed. Protects Consolidation Costs (Aug 25, 2011)

The state Board of Education took steps Thursday to protect a fund used to pay for costs when schools consolidate, and new rules are being developed to help the money go where it’s needed.

When a school district is forced to consolidate, the state Department of Education provides money to the districts receiving students from the closing school. That cash is used to pay outstanding expenses, which can range from bond indebtedness to severance pay for district employees. Over the past year, a trend has developed where some districts are sending their employees straight to the state to receive up to 80 percent of a year’s pay.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi says this move is concerning and she is glad new rules will help even out the process.

"In the absence of a sound procedure, we wanted to assure we provided fairness, but also good guidance going forward as we made those decisions, and I'm appreciative the board approved these emergency rules," Barresi said. Going forward, we will provide ample time for public comment on that."

Last year, the state disbursed just more than $347,000 in severance pay from the consolidation fund, and the education department says there are already 22 requests for wage help pending as of today. State law currently does not force school districts to fund severance pay out of the money received from the consolidation assistance fund.


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