As cities, counties and school districts work in the coming weeks to finalize their 2016 property-tax plans, many observers may not realize that school districts still are months away from deciding how to spend the money being raised by their levy proposals.

That's because school districts, unlike cities and counties, time their budgets to the start of the next school year -- in this case, the 2016-17 school year -- and not to a calendar year.

Throw in the possibility that a district also might have to cut programs or lay off teachers before the next school year starts and you have a process that can be even more confusing.

The St. Paul School District plans to help explain school budgeting to interested community members in four information sessions being held in the next three weeks. The meetings are being co-hosted by Generation Next and Parents United for Public Schools.

The first session is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at district headquarters, 360 Colborne St., and is being moderated by R.T. Rybak, executive director of Generation Next and a former Minneapolis mayor. The program is expected to last 90 minutes, and will include a conversation about where district dollars come from and how they are distributed throughout the school system, the district said.

The St. Paul school board is coming off a difficult spring that required it to outline cuts for 2015-16 and it is expected to have to cut again for 2016-17, Chairwoman Mary Doran said recently.

Toya Stewart Downey, a district spokeswoman, said this week she did not know how deep the projected shortfall might be, and added it could change as the district and its teachers negotiate a new contract.

The final three information sessions are set for Monday at Riverview West Side School of Excellence, 160 Isabel St.; Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Benjamin E. Mays IB World School, 560 Concordia Av.; and Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Hub at Harding, 1526 E. 6th St. Those meetings will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.