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Legislators play to small but tough crowd

Staff writer

A tax lid voted in by legislators late in the 2015 session and school financing were the dominant issues at Saturday’s legislative coffee in Marion.

About 20 people came to hear District 70 Representative John Barker and District 35 Senator Rick Wilborn at Marion Community Center.

County Commissioner Dan Holub skewered Barker and Wilborn on how they voted on the 2015 bill limiting a city or county government from raising property taxes higher than the rise in the national consumer price index unless the public votes in favor of it.

Both legislators said they initially voted against the proposal but later voted in favor when the measure was part of a budget bill.

Barker said the tax lid “is an issue with lots of support.”

“Really?” Holub said in a sarcastic tone.

“What’s the point of putting our tax increase on a vote when you know it’s going to go down?” Holub said.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt told the legislators that when people need street work done or new water lines installed, cities won’t be able to provide necessary services because of the tax lid.

Several members of the group asked about school funding.

Holub pointed out that USD 408 took a budget hit last year and asked if the school will get the money back.

Barker answered “no.”

USD 408 board of education president Jeremiah Lange asked numerous questions about school funding and block funding.

Willborn said there are two factors to school finance: equity and adequacy.

Three weeks ago the state Supreme Court ruled that block school financing, currently in use, is unconstitutional and unfair. The court ordered legislators to fix the formula or schools cannot open the doors in the fall.

Barker said legislators don’t know exactly what the funding is for the coming year but “they’re shooting it out” working on a new formula for education funding.

Wilborn told the group that a bill passed by the Senate and now being moved to the House would make it easier for a city to clean up contaminated property and convert it to useable state. The bill will let the property be purchased without the buyer being responsible for cost of the cleanup. Another bill passed by the Senate expands a city’s ability to deal with abandoned houses.

Last modified March 3, 2016

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