Faced with an $11 million funding gap, the St. Paul school board on Tuesday approved a $698 million budget for 2015-16 that aims to keep the worst of cuts away from classrooms.
Teachers could be spared under a plan that has been months in the making and was brightened somewhat by a late infusion of state funding.
But 53 teaching assistants and other support personnel remain subject to layoffs, according to Laurin Cathey, the district’s human resources director, who added some could be called back as individual schools allocate new resources made available by the state.
The district had eyed a shortfall of as much as $19.3 million when budget work began earlier this year.
In the end, Controller Marie Schrul said, the administration and the board were able to increase general-fund spending at the school level by 2.9 percent — in part by trimming central administration expenditures by 5 percent and school service support by 4.9 percent.
The board, as part of its budget-balancing moves, also decided against setting aside $1 million to cover retiree health insurance obligations and reneged on a $1 million promise made during last year’s teachers contract negotiations to add five licensed media specialists and five elementary school counselors.
Board Member John Brodrick, a retired teacher and the lone “no” vote Tuesday, opposed putting off the new hires. He also criticized district leaders — himself included — for failing to ensure programming and funding levels could be sustained.
In response, Superintendent Valeria Silva noted that the teachers union has refused to work with the district on a Q Comp alternative teacher pay plan that she says could have added $9 million in state aid per year.