District leaders have signed off on a new St. Paul Public Schools budget taking into account a projected loss of 1,228 students and the trade-offs associated with a three-day teachers strike.
But the $822.3 million spending plan approved by board members Tuesday remains a work in progress due to uncertainty tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We don't know which decisions we're going to have to make," said Superintendent Joe Gothard, who like other district leaders is preparing three school reopening plans for the fall.
They include a return to in-person instruction, a continuation of distance learning or a hybrid of the two.
State law requires districts to approve an annual budget by June 30, and St. Paul took pains to dedicate what it could to strategic priorities like strengthening its middle schools.
But it faced challenges when it came to revenue.
The projected enrollment loss, for example, erased potential gains from a 2% increase in the state's bedrock per-pupil funding formula, Marie Schrul, the district's chief financial officer, told board members Tuesday.
Gothard said the increased costs associated with the new contract between the district and St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) — coupled with this spring's shift to distance learning — limited spending options, too.
As part of the SPFE deal, the district agreed to hire four multilingual teachers and 10 multilingual education assistants at a total cost of $1 million.
Altogether, however, the budget calls for a reduction of 138 full-time positions, with 79 of them being teachers.
Schrul said that the district had 173 teaching vacancies as of June 4, meaning some teachers in positions being cut could fill those jobs.
But some vacancies require specific licenses, she added, and layoffs for some would stand.
The number of teaching positions that were cut due to projected enrollment losses was 55.28.
Earlier, Gothard said trade-offs associated with the SPFE contract could have led to the elimination of 18 of 28 teacher coaches. Last year, he created the jobs saying they were vital to bringing structure to efforts to improve school climate and make classes more relevant to students of diverse backgrounds.
The 28 positions now are being retained through a combination of federal funds and general fund proceeds at a total cost of $3.3 million.