Three south metro school districts are cutting budgets for the coming school year even though the Legislature approved an increase in state funding during the recent special session.
Minnesota schools will receive 2 percent more state money per pupil in each of the next two years. That amounts to an additional $117 per student for the 2015-16 school year and another $119 per student during the 2016-17 school year.
That was better than expected, but doesn’t keep pace with inflation or make up for years of flat state funding, according to officials in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage, South St. Paul and Farmington.
“It does certainly give us a little breathing room,” said Farmington Superintendent Jay Haugen. “[But] even at two percent, we forecast a deficit in 2016-17.”
South St. Paul, Burnsville-Eagan-Savage and Farmington had proposed reductions to budgets for the coming school year, including cuts to staff and programs. With final budgets due June 30, officials say school boards have little time to consider changes.
Here’s a rundown of the cuts planned in each of the three districts.
When the Burnsville school board discussed ways to cut $4.9 million from the 2015-16 budget in April, the plan they developed axed 38 teaching positions and six educational assistant jobs. It would increase class sizes at the high school by about one student per class.
The new state money will add $700,000 back into the budget. Lisa Rider, the district’s director of business services, said the school board will decide Thursday if they want to allocate it to a specific area.
One reason for the cuts is declining enrollment — in 2015-16, the district will have 88 fewer students than last year, according to district documents.
South St. Paul
South St. Paul proposed eliminating four kindergarten assistants and two English Language Learner teaching jobs as part of $750,000 in budget cuts in March, said Aaron Bushberger, finance director.
Even with the extra state funding, that amount will likely still be cut, he said. The district will put some of the state money into preschool programs for the coming school year, and allocate it toward facilities beginning with the 2016-17 budget.
Bushberger said the district knew that spending would be higher than revenue in 2015-16 and was able to use some its reserves to offset cutting further. The school board is discussing whether to ask voters to approve a tax increase in November, he added.
The Farmington School Board made plans to cut $640,000 from the district’s 2015-16 budget this spring. The original deficit was nearly $1 million, but the board came up with a way to raise $320,000 through advertising, increased activity fees and selling a building, Haugen said.
Items on the chopping block included some middle school sports and a behavioral interventionist position. The district also planned to reconfigure administrative positions, increase class sizes in grades 2-5 and 9-12, and add four flexible learning days to the calendar — reducing costs by letting kids learn at home on iPads.
The elementary band program, initially slated to be among the cuts, was spared after parent and teacher protests.
The 2 percent increase from the state is nice, but doesn’t keep up with inflation or make up for a decade of underfunding, said Haugen, adding he had hoped for 3 percent. The district will still need to cut its 2016-17 budget, he said.
Farmington is weighing whether to put a levy on the ballot this November.