New Laws Affecting the 2015-2016 School Year Part II

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, July 22, 2015

Over the course of this year, the Legislature passed a few new laws that will affect the new school year. Some have already gone into effect, some will soon. The following is a brief description of the most recent new laws to know about for the upcoming year. These are in addition to issues we’ve covered previously that were included in the School Aid Budget.

Public Act 42—Fundraising Activities During School

This new law will allow for the sale of foods that do not meet federal nutrition guidelines during school hours. Known as the "bake sale" bill, it limits the number of sales to no more than two per week. This law goes into effect on Sept. 1.

Public Act 56—FIP Assistance Tied to Student Attendance

This law states that if a child under the age of 16 is truant from school, the family would be prohibited from receiving Family Independence Program assistance. If the child is over 16 and is truant, only the child would lose his/her assistance. This new law went into effect on June 11, 2015.

Public Acts 96-97—School Refunding Bonds

These two public acts are clean up from the 2012 school bond loan fund changes. In 2012, the law was changed and eliminated the ability of schools to do refunding on their bonds regardless of savings to voters or the school district. Under the new law, refunding will be reinstated as long as it actually provides savings. The bills also extend the repayment period for the bonds. This went into effect on June 30, 2015.

Public Acts 98-103—February Elections

These laws eliminate the February election date starting in 2016.

Public Acts 109-114—Early Warning System

This set of laws establishes an early warning system for schools in possible fiscal distress. The law states that if a district has a fund balance of five percent or lower for the past two fiscal years, it must submit its budget assumptions to the state. Under the law, this report is due annually by July 7. Because the bills were signed on that day, Treasury has stated that for this year only, the deadline will be Aug. 7.

It also allows Treasury the ability to review a district’s financial data to determine if fiscal distress exists and notify the district within 14 days of that determination. The district then has the option to contract with an intermediate school district to address its financial situation. If a contract is entered into, Treasury may not step in for 730 days or until the contract is rescinded, whichever occurs first. MASB’s E-vocate site has more detailed information on this issue.

Public Acts 115-116—Emergency Loan Fund Revisions

These laws increase the cap on emergency loans available to schools and municipalities. The amount available to schools through the Emergency Municipal Loan Act will increase from $50 million to $70 million through Sept. 30, 2018.

Public Acts 128-129—Railroad Crossing Stops

This new law states that a school bus does not have to stop at an inactive railroad crossing. An inactive crossing is one that has been covered or removed and all of the signs, signals and other warning devices are removed. Current law refers to abandoned tracks and requires federal approval. This will allow local units to declare the crossing inactive.

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