WEMTA's presentation was led by Legislative Committee Chair Janet Vraney and WEMTA members Micki Uppena, Tony Spence and Kay Benning. They educated Committee members on all of the great things happening in our school libraries because of the Common School Fund and, explained that for the vast majority of WEMTA members, CSF dollars are the only funding they receive for their school library program. In addition, they highlighted the stability of the Common School Fund and told the Committee that school libraries want a dedicated, reliable and consistent funding source.
You can view WEMTA's presentation and the full Committee meeting here. They plan to meet again on September 5.
The Committee also heard from:
- Staff from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands talked about how they invest the Common School Fund and other trust funds. They talked a lot about the history of the BCPL and the Common School Fund and their investment policy. They said that the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) would generate the same return for the Common School Fund as BCPL because they would need to operate under the same statutory and constitutional constraints. They also said that if the Common School Fund had been invested in a more risky manner during the economic downturn of 2007-09, there would not have been any Common School Fund Distributions for 5-8 years.
- A panel of local government officials discussed the importance of the BCPL Trust Fund Loan Program. They said that many small municipalities can't access the bond market and that private loans have higher costs. Robert Scott, director of finance for the City of Brookfield, said: "Restriction or elimination of the Trust Fund Loan program would not only jettison a smart fiscal tool for hundreds of local governments in Wisconsin, but it could also curtail infrastructure and economic development projects that but for the state Trust Fund Loan program would have either not occurred or would cost taxpayers more in the long run."
- BCPL Commissioner State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk testified about why he thinks the BCPL and the Common School Fund should change. He said that the goal of making changes is to double the rate of return for schools.He said that the state should remove school libraries as the dedicated beneficiary of the Common School Fund so that the CSF could be "free money for the school districts." He said that they could find a different way to fund school libraries; for example, through the general fund. He told the Committee the SWIB is the gold standard and should be allowed to invest the money. Adamczyk also told the Committee that he opposes the loan program because it is "stealing money" from a private entity (banks).
- A panel of school district officials spoke about the importance of the BCPL Trust Fund Loan Program and the Common School Fund. They said it can be challenging for their small local banks to help them with loans.Todd Carlson, superintendent of the Gillett School District said that the Common School Fund is vital to his district. Carlson said that 95% of their yearly operating budget is fixed costs for things like transportation, salaries and utilities, so they often don't have room for the extras. Brian Krey, business manager for the River Valley School District, which has four schools, said the Common School Fund is the sole budget for his libraries and that he supports keeping it as a dedicated funding source for libraries. "Knowing that it's stable and dependent is really important to us. School funding is anything but that, especially in a district like ours where we're declining in student enrollment. So knowing that that money is going to be there, year-after-year, is very, very beneficial for our entire community," said Krey.
- BCPL Commissioner Secretary of State Doug La Follette. He said that the BCPL system is working and that it has been modernized.