Public schools are in a tough position on the budget front -- forced now to finalize 2015-16 spending plans while awaiting state action on the amount of aid to be provided to schools over the next two years.
For now, for planning purposes, the 39 districts that belong to the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD) are banking on a 1 percent increase in the state's bedrock per-pupil funding formula.
But apply that formula increase and other revenues against inflation and other costs and the result is that 28 of the 39 districts are projecting shortfalls for 2015-16, an AMSD survey revealed this week.
Parents and others now are lobbying at the Capitol for a 3 percent formula increase. In the meantime, districts are busy weighing cuts at the local level in anticipation of final votes in June.
For the St. Paul School District, that has meant finding ways to pare up to $15 million -- the largest such gap in AMSD circles. This week, the school board pondered moves that have included:
> Cutting at least 7 percent from budgets in central administration and in districtwide support programs tied to work in areas like racial equity and family and community engagement.
> Reneging on promises made during last year's teachers contract negotiations to add five licensed media specialists and five elementary school counselors.
> Cutting back on funds set aside annually to cover retiree health insurance obligations.
> Eliminating for some teachers the time available to work together on lesson plans and teaching strategies -- a system that has the added benefit of allowing science, physical education and arts specialists to work with students while classroom teachers are busy collaborating.
Superintendent Valeria Silva said that her administration is proposing the 7 percent reductions in districtwide programming and support services to protect funding at the classroom level.
"We're providing as much as we can to the schools," she said this week.
Still, cuts are expected at the school level, too.
Unlike some districts on the AMSD list, St. Paul has yet to project how many teachers and other staff members could be laid off.
And if Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators were to agree on a 3 percent formula increase?
St. Paul still would have a budget hole to fill, according to Controller Marie Schrul. She said that a 3 percent hike would produce an additional $7.2 million annually for the state's second-largest district -- or about $4.8 million more than the St. Paul district has been counting on for now.
Other AMSD members with projected shortfalls include: Minneapolis, at $13 million; South Washington County, $9 million; Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, $7.6 million; Bloomington, $7 million; North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale, $6.5 million; Burnsville-Eagan-Savage, $5.8 million; and Anoka-Hennepin, $5 million.
For the full list, go to: http://www.amsd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/AMSD-Budget-Survey-2015-Letterhead.pdf