Minneapolis Public Schools have moved closer to staying within budget but still spent $7 million more than it planned in the last school year, audited financial statements show.
The district’s overspending of its $599 million budget in 2016-17 was an improvement over the previous year, when it went $21.6 million over budget, according to audited financial statements on the district’s website.
The district has blamed a number of factors: higher costs for special education and English language learners, as well as enrollment declines and negotiated salary increases.
This yearly audit brings the district’s spending practices to light as district officials grapple with a much bigger gap: the looming $33 million deficit for the next school year. School district officials and board members planned to discuss auditor BerganKDV’s assessments at a finance committee meeting Thursday night.
For the past seven years, the district has pulled money from its reserves. That pot of funds is about $42 million, and is projected to decline to about $25 million by the start of the 2018-19 school year. The reserves are there “for unanticipated or emergency situations, or to make important one-time investments,” according to a budget explanation on the district’s website. Falling back on reserves is no longer an option, district officials say.
In the last several years, reserves were “healthy enough to access to overcome deficits, and because we knew we had this money available, significant funding changes were not made at that time,” according to the district’s website.
Superintendent Ed Graff has said he’s surveying all options to curb costs. He discussed hypotheticals at a recent school board meeting, including reconsidering start times and curbing the number of school days. The district may ask voters for extra cash in a 2018 referendum.
The district spent October and November gathering feedback from the community on its future budget plans, and is slated to make budget recommendations soon.
In early November, the district announced cost-saving methods, including limits on hiring to address this school year’s deficit. It also called for travel reductions.