‘Legislative intent’ and Rushford-Peterson’s new school


From: Col Stan Gudmundson
USAF (Ret)
Peterson, Minn.

Want the truth about Rushford-Peterson’s eligibility for Minnesota’s “Disaster Debt Equalization” as written in the legislation? Debt equalization is the 55 percent that state taxpayers are on the hook for to help pay for R-P’s new school.

“Section 5. [123B.535] Natural Debt Service Equalization,” Subdivision 1. Definition says, “For purposes of this section, the eligible natural disaster debt service revenue of a district is defined as the amount needed to produce between five and six percent in excess of the amount needed to meet when due the principal and interest payments on the obligations of the district that would otherwise qualify under section 123B.53 under the following conditions:

(1) The district was impacted by a natural disaster…

(2) The natural disaster caused $500,000 or more in damages to school district buildings [that is questionable by the way]; and

(3) The repair and replacement costs are not covered by insurance payments or Federal Emergency Management Agency payments.”

R-P received insurance and federal payments way over $500,000. That disqualifies the district from receiving debt equalization.

But here is where the funny business starts. A bureaucrat by the name of Tom Melcher, School Finance Director in the Minnesota Department of Education, said in a letter dated December 22, 2014 “With respect to condition 3, while the repair costs were largely covered by a combination of FEMA payments, state aid, and insurance, replacement costs for the new school were clearly not covered.”

OK, now go back to the debt equalization legislation [123B.535] above and see if you can find any reference to a new school. Give up? Of course you did because there isn’t a cotton-pickin’ thing about a new school anywhere in that legislation. Zero, as in nothing at all.

This seems grossly inconsistent given that the purpose of aid was to repair damage caused by natural disasters. How the hell you can turn this into debt equalization for a new school is beyond my comprehension.

Ah, but wait just a minute. Melcher does some more fancy footwork. He said that “legislative intent” is the basis for debt equalization. What he is saying, though legislators didn’t have the cojones to actually mention a new school, is that is what the legislature meant to provide debt equalization for.

There, that settles that, doesn’t it? Ah, not so fast. Even Wikipedia says that, “When a statute is clear and unambiguous, the courts have said, repeatedly, that the inquiry into legislative intent ends at that point. It is only when a statute could be interpreted in more than one fashion that legislative intent must be inferred from sources other than the actual text of the statute.”

The legislation is darn clear. There isn’t the slightest ambiguity at all. For those who are new school supporters and read and write at a sixth-grade-level, the 55 percent debt equalization bill is nothing more than a charade that isn’t even close to being legal.


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