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Swift County Monitor-News

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.
Justice Anthony Kennedy (1936 - )

Opinion

Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
Thomas Jefferson, 1786

Sooner Or Later, School Calendar Must Expand


Rochester public school ofcials are going to begin exploring the possibility of implementing a 45-15 schedule in more schools, expanding upon the experiment begun in 1995 at Longfellow Elementary, a choice school in southeast Rochester. What, exactly, are the benets of such a change? Before answering that question, we should point out that a 45-15 schedule isnt the same as so-called ``year-round schooling. Students in a 45-15 program spend no more time in the classroom than their peers in schools with traditional calendars. But the calendar does offer several academic advantages, with the most obvious being a summer break that is six or seven weeks, rather than the usual 13. Multiple studies have found this to be advantageous, causing less ``summer slide - which means a 45-15 calendar requires less review of old material every fall. The other signicant benet of 45revised budget relative to his original 15 is the logical placement of breaks budget is a net business tax reduction within the calendar. Students at of about $1.8 billion. Longfellow start school in late July, So businesses expressed approval complete the nine-week rst quarter, over the changes in the Governors then take a three-week break. They revised budget, right? Not so fast. return for another nine weeks, which To date, the reaction appears to completes their rst semester, and be limited to renewed complaints then they have an extended winter about Governor Daytons fourth break over the holiday season. tier income tax proposal on the The traditional calendar, on the grounds that this is a tax on job other hand, sends kids home before creators. Businesses that pay taxes Christmas and brings them back after through the individual income tax New Years Day - and one or two are referred to as ow-through weeks later, the rst semester ends. entities. Information from the That isnt a problem for elementary Minnesota Department of Revenue schoolers, but if youre a high school shows that only 6 percent of student facing semester exams, that Minnesota ow-through entities calendar is less than ideal. would experience a tax increase What are the downsides of 45-15? as a result of Daytons fourth tier Logistically, it poses challenges proposal - and these business would for families who dont have a stayonly pay higher taxes on the portion at-home parent. Instead of having of taxable income in excess of to nd child care for June, July and $250,000 (married joint lers). August, they have three additional See page 5 three-week holidays to cover. If this calendar were applied to Rochesters high schools, students summer employment opportunities would be greatly curtailed. Thats why wed be reluctant to see a districtwide expansion of 4015, at least for now. Instead, the next logical step would be to add another 45-15 elementary choice school (if there is demand for it) and/or to create a 45-15middle-school choice program, so families whose children attend Longfellow at least have the option of continuing with the system thats familiar to them. But in the long term, we hope the district _ and the entire state _ will look at a much more signicant calendar change that actually adds days to the school calendar, rather than just redistributing them. Next year, 20,000 students in 40 schools in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Colorado and Tennessee will spend a lot more time in school. Three hundred additional hours to be exact _ which, if they were divided up into todays average school day of roughly seven hours, would equate to eight additional weeks of learning. Its a three-year pilot program, funded (yes, the teachers are paid for their extra time) through a mix of federal, state and local sources. The goal is to boost achievement and provide an education that is globally competitive with what students receive in India, China, Finland and Japan. Such a change in Rochester and Minnesota is probably a long way off, but were convinced it must and will happen. Expanding the use of the 45-15 calendar would be at least a small step in that direction. Post-Bulletin of Rochester

Governor Tries Again On Tax Plan


By Jeff Van Wychen Fellow and Director of Tax Policy & Analysis In Governor Daytons revised budget released March 14, business taxes drop signicantly relative to the original January budget. Gone is the sales tax on business-to-business services and the plan to widen the sales tax base to include a variety of goods and services in exchange for a lower rate. However, a new fourth tier income tax that would apply to wealthiest two percent of Minnesota households is still in place. Despite sales tax changes taking more than $2 billion of new revenue (FY 2014-15 estimate) from his budget, the Governor maintains increased investment in middleclass priorities - K-12 and higher education, economic development, human services, and other areas. Furthermore, the Governor increases funding for the renters property tax refund (PTR) - a provision that was not part of his original January budget. The renters PTR is the most powerfully progressive feature of Minnesotas tax system; dollar for dollar, no program does more to reduce tax regressivity than the renters PTR. As for Minnesota companies, cutting the business-to-business sales tax will cancel a $2.2 billion increase in business taxes that would have occurred under the original budget in FY 2014-15. In return, businesses will have to forego some tax relief goodies they received in the Governors original budget, including the reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 9.8 percent to 8.4 percent, new caps on the growth in the state business property tax, and the conversion of the capital equipment sales tax refund to an upfront exemption. In total, the impact of the Governors

Rural America Big Loser In Postal Reform


A Drop of Ink
By Reed Annson
Last Thursday morning at the Crystal City Marriott hotel in Washington, D.C., we had the opportunity to ask Postmaster General Pat Donahoe directly about his thoughts on the importance of mail delivery to rural America. The answer was honest, business-like, and wrong. A group of about 80 community newspaper publishers representing 35 states met with the postmaster general to tell him their concerns about the impact of a greatly diminished United States Postal Service on their small towns and cities. He explained to us that he had little choice but to make the deep cuts. In 2007, the postal service delivered about 51 billion pieces of rst class mail. This year it is estimated it will deliver closer to 21 billion pieces. That loss of 30 billion pieces, nearly 60 percent of its most protable business, means the loss of over $14 billion in revenue. As rst class mail, including bills and bill payments, have migrated to the Internet, the postal service has seen crippling declines in its revenues. It lost $15.9 billion in the 2011-12 scal year, which ended Sept. 30. The vast majority of the loss was attributed to defaulting on two $5.5 billion payments required to pre-fund its employee retiree health benets. In 2006, Congress required the postal service to pre-fund future retiree benets 75 years ahead, but make the payments to do so in just 10 years. It no longer has the cash ow to make those payments. This past October, the postal service had three days worth of cash on hand, Donahoe told publishers. I cannot allow the organization to be that close to not being able to pay its bills or meet its payroll, he said. Furthermore, he pointed out that the postal service has maxed out its $15 billion line of credit with the federal government. The postal service hasnt been sitting idly by watching its revenues tank. In the last six years, it has cut nearly 200,000 employees with no layoffs, but simply through not replacing people who retire or quit. It has also eliminated nearly half of its mail processing centers, the regional centers where mail is shipped to be sorted for carrier routes and delivered to community post ofces. It has reduced hours at low volume post ofces (13,000 of its 26,000 post ofces) and hired new part-time workers at lower wages with few or no benets. But all these cuts have not been enough. Donahoe says he is ending Saturday mail delivery the rst week in August. Many in Congress dont believe he can make that decision on his own, but he does and is moving forward. Packages, a growing segment of the postal services business, will still be delivered on Saturdays. Ending Saturday mail could save the postal service about $1.7 to $2 billion annually. Saturday delivery will not look like Monday through Friday, he said. It will be based strictly on the scan of the package, the location of that package, and with a click of a button you create a route. For rural delivery, that may include one post ofce delivering for eight or nine post ofces. It is our goal to keep the cost down. Donahoe said his goal is to keep costs down through the ability to control labor and transportation costs. What that means for rural America is diminished service. We dont have the population density to make mail delivery cost effective. The fact that rural America is suffering to some extent - that is something I really cant answer for you, Donahoe told publishers. We have tried our bestto change the cost of the rural delivery structure to keep it as affordable as possible. Those steps have included the closing of mail processing centers and reducing post ofce hours. The closing of mail processing centers in rural America means mail from some small towns will be shipped six to10 hours away to be sorted before being returned. This will delay delivery by at least one to three days. The loss of Saturday mail means even longer delays, as we lose not only a day of delivery, but also as the glut of mail that has to be delivered Mondays overwhelms the postal service. With the changes he has made, and plans to make, the postmaster general will be causing delays of two to four days for mail sent from rural America. The days of a letter getting not just across the country, but across town in a single day are long gone. And it is going to get worse as more rural mail processing centers are closed. We told Donahoe that it appeared the cherished model of universal postal service to the far-ung reaches of America was a thing of the past. He disagreed. I feel very responsible for universal service, but with everything else, we have to gure out how in the world we pay for it, Donahoe said. That is the problem. The problem is that if the protability of rural mail is the only standard for measuring the quality of delivery, rural America is guaranteed to see a further decline. The cuts being implemented now will become the base for more cuts in the future.

Swift County Monitor-News


Monitor-News Staff
Reed W. Anfinson - Publisher - reed@monitor-news.com John W. Fragodt - Sports Editor/Reporter - sports@monitor-news.com Barb Erickson - Advertising Sales - ads@monitor-news.com Nancy Ridler - Advertising Sales - ads@monitor-news.com Peggy Cameron - Graphic Artist - ads@monitor-news.com Sheila McGee -Receptionist/Bookkeeper - ads@monitor-news.com

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