Do Mandates Still Make Sense? Answers to the FAQ’s

Does choosing the block grant mean I no longer have to file mandate claims?  Won’t this save me money?

No.

The block grant was developed as a money-saving vehicle for the state and in hope that schools would be willing to carry out all the mandated activities without being fully reimbursed.

They are offering pennies on the dollar, with payouts of only 41 percent of what is owed. When you consider the costs tied to local audits and potential penalties, the block grant program will cost districts money – lots of it.

Isn’t the idea to make the block grant a simplified reimbursement process?

Maybe, maybe not.

The state doesn’t have a good record when it comes to following through on ‘intent’ to make life easier for schools. The block grant program is rife with uncertainty.

The audit requirements are a good example. Districts accepting the block grant must be in compliance with all the state mandates covered in the program – including those a district may not have in the past ever claimed for. If a district is found to be out of compliance with any one of the mandates, there is a good chance all the block grant money will be taken away.

Exactly how the audit process will work is still unknown since the state guidelines have yet to be issued and may not be before districts need to make a decision on joining the program by Sept. 30.

Also, the audit will be required every year for each mandated program with the cost of the review coming out of local money.

Our district needs money now, how can I justify passing on the block grant?

That’s a good question – but a better one might be how you can justify accepting $28 per ADA when your district is likely owed something north of $68 per ADA?

The state is still constitutionally obligated to pay for mandated claims and all unpaid claims continue to accrue interest until the balance is paid.

Remember – the block grant wasn’t created to help schools, but rather to save the state money.

The pool of money set aside this year for the block grant is likely to be the largest schools will ever see – so it’s a diminishing resource. On the other hand, schools are guaranteed to eventually be paid what they are owed under the existing mandate claiming process.

Our district is compliant so we don’t need to worry about the audit…

Not true.

Most districts only file claims on the mandates that they know they are in compliance with. The block grant programs will require compliance on all mandates – including those you’ve never claimed. As stated above, if a district is found to be out of compliance with any of the mandates, all their block grant money would be put at risk.

Do I have the option to choose between filing mandates or the block grant every year?

Yes.  Districts will have the option to choose the traditional mandate reimbursement claims process or block grant process every year. For the first year of the program, districts will need to decide by Sept. 30, 2012.

Stopping and starting the mandate claiming process might be problematic, because once district staff becomes accustomed to the block grant system – reinstituting traditional mandate claiming might be difficult. That is exactly what the state is hoping.

It is important to know that the block grant program will not begin until the 2012-13 fiscal year, so districts will still need to file their 2011-12 claims. And remember, the cost of your mandate contract is 100 percent reimbursable while the cost of the block grant audit is not.

How does my district opt out of the block grant?

Current law provides that districts choosing to continue filing claims under the existing mandate reimbursement process will not need to do anything.  The 9/30/12 deadline is only for those districts that are choosing the block grant.  Instructions on how to declare have not yet been provided.              

Is there certainty about which mandates are included in the mandate block grant?

There is not. When Senate Bill 1016 was passed on June 27th, it contained a listing of mandates that were included in the Mandate Block Grant.  This list did not include the following mandates:

  •     Academic Performance Index
  •     Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting
  •     Expulsion of Pupils – Transcript Costs for Appeals
  •     Graduation Requirements
  •     Interdistrict Attendance Permits
  •     Teacher Incentive Program
  •     Student Records

However, with the recent passage of Senate Bill 1028 on August 31st, this bill added 5 of the 7 excluded mandates above to the block grant.  Now, all mandates except the following are included in the block grant:

  •     Graduation Requirements
  •     Teacher Incentive Program

 

Can I continue to file mandated cost claims for the mandates not included in the block grant?

The state has yet to provide a clear answer to this key question. A recent CDE memo stated that the State Controller’s Office will accept reimbursement claims for active 2012–13 mandated programs not included in the block grant.  However, the Department of Finance has not confirmed this to be true and no official statements have been released from the SCO to say that they will accept the claims. Although the claims will be filed, we are yet certain if they will be funded or paid.