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Knudson expects some increase in state aid for schools

State Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, makes a point during a listening session at the Hudson Area Library at noon on Saturday. Photo by Randy Hanson

State Rep. Dean Knudson told the small group of people who attended his listening session Saturday at the Hudson Area Library that he expects a modest increase in state funding for schools in the 2013-15 budget.

The Hudson Republican said he expects the increase to be in the range of $100 to $150 per student -- maybe as high as $200.

Gov. Scott Walker's budget calls for no increase in state aid, but Republican legislators, especially in rural areas with declining enrollments, have heard from school administrators who say they need an increase in aid to avoid drastic cuts for their schools.

The last two-year state budget provided a $50 per pupil increase one year and no increase the other year.

Knudson said better-than-expected tax revenue for the state has provided a surplus of $400 million that could grow to as high as $600 million.

He said some of that money will likely be returned to local schools.

He cautioned that the aid is distributed through the state's equalization formula, however, which means property-poor districts get more money per pupil than property-rich districts like Hudson.

Knudson said the Legislature might also allow the revenue cap on school districts to rise. But he said he thinks the revenue limit should stay below whatever the increase in state aid is, so property taxpayers get some of the relief.

He said his No. 1 priority since going to the state Assembly at the start of 2011 has been protecting the taxpayer.

Only seven citizens and one reporter attended the noon listening session in the library's second-floor meeting room.

Katie Thurmes, a county employee from Somerset, expressed concern about the county's plans to transfer the services provided to developmentally disabled county residents from St. Croix Industries to a non-profit organization that hasn't yet been identified.

She said the reason for it is declining Family Care funding from the state.

Barry Urbas of North Hudson disagreed with Gov. Walker's plan to increase funding for private voucher schools and expand the program to additional cities.

Knudson said the voucher program for Milwaukee increases the amount of aid available for schools elsewhere in the state. He said Milwaukee receives about $12,000 for each student attending a public school, but the state provides a $6,500 voucher for students who opt to attend a private school.

He said he could support expanding the voucher program in some cases, but only where it saves tax dollars.

Madison gets only $4,000 in state aid for each public school student, so it wouldn't make sense to provide a $6,500 voucher for students there to attend private schools, he said.

Hudson resident Tom Irwin said the Boston Marathon bombers collected $100,000 in government benefits before committing the crimes.

"The entitlement crowd is getting too much money," Irwin said, and asked Knudson to support cuts in welfare and unemployment benefits.

Irwin also called for an end to state and federal money going to the county nursing home.

A town of Hudson resident who identified herself as Paula wanted to know if anything could be done to give her voting rights in the town of Maple Plain in Polk County, where her family owns 40 acres of recreational property.

She said the taxes on the property were $199 when her family bought it in 1986. The 2012 taxes were $826, she said.

"I can't vote on property that I own," she said, and asked Knudson if he knew of a constitutional lawyer who could address the issue.

Knudson sympathized with her regarding her tax bill, but didn't hold out any hope of returning to property-based voting rights.

"We need to do everything we can to keep it under control," he said of property taxes.

Knudson spoke with the group for an hour and a half.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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