Accurate Fiscal Responsibility

New Report Calls for More Detail in Fiscal Notes Used by Legislature

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, Aug. 5, 2015

Money—it’s the driving force behind so much in our society and schools are nowhere close to being immune. The abundance or lack of it determines if something will or won’t get done. But how that determination is made—in particular, the “evidence” that is referenced by a legislature to make its decision to provide or not provide funding—isn’t always as complete as it could be in Michigan.

A recent report on fiscal notes from the Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan speaks directly to this topic, which is one of MASB’s legislative priorities for 2015-2016—support legislation to end unfunded mandates and determine actual costs of legislation. CRC recommends the expansion of these fiscal notes, which are regularly developed by the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies “to provide a nonpartisan financial and legislative analysis of the true spending and revenue impacts of proposed and enacted bills.”

The fiscal notes are currently limited in scope—some information is hard to access, there are inconsistencies between business fiscal years and tax filings, and data access for local governments is a challenge, etc. Other factors are the speed of Michigan’s legislative process; the fiscal agencies’ staff expertise is at the state, not the local level; and being able to maintain standards with regard to analyzing state budget impacts.

MASB’s legislative priority notes that over the years, local governments, including school districts, have been given more and more to do or abide by without funding to help make it happen. Legislation has been proposed in past sessions to support a fiscal note with every piece of legislation to determine its actual cost to local governments and schools. The Legislature should revisit these bills and take action to adopt standards that will create an environment of trust between local units of government and the State Legislature.

CRC believes that expanding the scope of the fiscal notes “could provide additional critical information to inform policymaking at the state level.”

Additionally, having these more accurate fiscal notes available would be valuable in the realization of several other MASB legislative priorities, including:

  • Expand the use of sinking funds.
  • Support further cost containment in retirement and health care for districts.
  • Create state financial support for facilities and infrastructure, including technology.
  • Support funding for third grade reading intervention tools rather than retention only.
  • Protect the School Aid Fund and local revenues from state tax policy changes.
  • Support a review of Proposal A with an adequacy study for school funding.

It should also be noted, that support of more detailed fiscal notes was also included in the Governor’s State of the State address this past January. Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) recently reintroduced his legislation on this issue, which was passed out of Senate committee last year. We hope this report will help push the Legislature to act on this issue that is important to local schools.

To read the full report, visit the CRC’s website.

Full details of MASB’s legislative priorities can be found here.

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