A year after wrangling with a projected $15.1 million budget gap, the St. Paul School District now is eyeing a potential $27.3 million shortfall for the 2017-18 school year.
The "big picture" review was presented to school board members Tuesday
The projection comes early in the budgeting process and could be eased by per-pupil funding increases now being discussed at the state level. Gov. Mark Dayton, for example, has proposed a 2 percent per-pupil formula increase that could generate about $6.4 million.
Also in play are district efforts to persuade the St. Paul Federation of Teachers to buy into Q Comp, the alternative teacher pay plan that district officials have said could draw up to $9 million a year in state and local funding for professional development and other purposes.
Until now, the union has declined to work with the district to submit a Q Comp proposal to the state.
But John Thein, the district's interim superintendent, said Tuesday that he plans to meet with union President Denise Rodriguez this week, and that Q Comp is likely to be discussed then. The union has said it has six conditions that would need to be met in order to win its support, Thein said Tuesday.
The $27.3 million shortfall has two major pieces: $23.3 million in inflationary costs if the district were to roll over its 2016-17 budget, "as is," plus a $4 million revenue decrease caused in part by declining enrollment. A drop in enrollment also put a $1.2 million dent in the 2016-17 budget.
Budget-balancing measures up for consideration include the possibility of letting some vacant positions go unfilled plus an offering of early retirement incentives -- the latter of which were proposed and withdrawn a year ago. No decision has been made, Marie Schrul, the district's chief financial officer, said Tuesday.
The school board has until the end of June to approve a 2017-18 budget. A budget advisory committee has been meeting and is expected to provide input along the way.