341 layoffs ahead for St. Paul schools

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2011 - 11:44 PM

School board will also close, restructure some operations to cut $24.6 million from budget.

The St. Paul school board sliced $24.6 million from its 2011-2012 budget Tuesday by laying off 341 employees and shuttering several departments.

The layoffs include 167 employees hired or kept on during the past two years with $60 million in federal stimulus money that runs out this year.

"We're laying off some exceptionally good staff," said board member Anne Carroll. "This is horrible and I'm sorry. I'm sorry we don't have the budget we need to support our families. This has been exceptionally messy this year because of the Legislature's barrier to finalize their own budget. This could get worse. It's not done yet."

The district's deficit could change depending on what Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders decide about the state's budget in the coming weeks.

One legislative proposal is to cut integration funding, which could trim an additional $20 million from St. Paul schools' budget.

If the state government shuts down for lack of a budget, the district will have to take out a $100 million loan, said the district's chief business officer, Michael Baumann.

Superintendent Valeria Silva said the school budget reflected a 2014 plan that seeks to raise the achievement of poor and minority students, close some schools and drastically reduce citywide bus transportation by limiting school choice.

The district expects to spend about $636.3 million next year, including $462.1 million in the general fund.

The central administration will save $11 million by eliminating several administrative positions, combining others and reorganizing its structural chart.

The district gave early retirement incentives to 118 employees, including five principals and 92 teachers.

One of the more controversial cuts for parents was changing the starting time of several schools to save $1.9 million in transportation costs. Several parents from Chelsea Heights Elementary School complained to the board about starting the school day 65 minutes later in the fall.

"I don't know if this district has earned our trust," said Chelsea Heights parent Kevin Huepenbecker, frustrated because he heard of the changes from media reports instead of from the district. "If this district is going to succeed, we need that trust."

The superintendent made some last-minute changes to the budget proposal, including reversing a controversial move to lay off two employees in the Out for Equity program, which assists GLBT students.

Silva also decided the district should continue operating its 40-year-old print, copy and mail center instead of outsourcing those tasks.

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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