St. Paul public school teachers will get a 1 percent pay raise this year and next, under a district budget partly released Tuesday night that also showed it’s facing a $17.2 million deficit.
The school board got its first look at the district’s 2018-19 budget, which revealed the deficit for the first time and shed light on the pay for teachers.
The contract was finalized during a 13-hour mediation session that ended early Monday, and awaits ratification by union members. In forging the deal, the district averted a strike and also kept the increased costs of the contract within a targeted $2.07 million per year.
Still, the projected shortfall puts the board in budget-balancing mode for a fourth consecutive year. A year ago at this time, it was eyeing a $27.3 million deficit for 2017-18. The district’s budget for 2017-18 is $731.2 million.
Settlement of the contract has brought about hopes for greater collaboration within the district, and Board Member Steve Marchese echoed that optimism in a statement that opened Tuesday’s committee meeting. “We have challenges. We know that,” he said. “I hope we can move forward in a positive way.”
Still to come on the budget side are refinements based on school-by-school enrollment projections, after which the district will send proposed allocations to the schools for their review, perhaps as early as mid-March, said Marie Schrul, the district’s chief financial officer.
She said she expects the $17.2 million figure to drop as officials also take a closer look at the expenditure side.
In 2015 and 2017, when the district faced shortfalls of $19.3 million and $27.3 million, it saw the deficits eased by state aid increases approved before it put the final touches on the annual budgets.
But those moves came in the first year of the state’s two-year funding cycle, when such late assists are more likely to occur.
Last fall, the Minneapolis Public Schools announced it was facing a $33 million deficit for 2018-19. Since then, officials have raised the possibility of going to voters this fall with a new operating-levy proposal.
St. Paul has yet to make such plans, but Superintendent Joe Gothard said this week he was not ruling it out.
On Monday, he attributed part of the district’s fiscal woes to a failure by state and federal government to provide adequate funding for ELL and special-education students. St. Paul must use general fund dollars to help cover the costs, and that shift “is felt each and every day,” he said.
The school board has until June 30 to approve the budget.