St. Paul School Budget Proposal Projects Higher Expenditures Than Revenue

Despite a significant boost in state funding, St. Paul Public Schools expects to spend more than it brings in the following year.

District administrators aren’t prepared to eliminate the positions those awards are funding, including those in mental health and cultural intervention and human resources, finance, instruction, and customized learning, when September rolls around, the second round of federal coronavirus assistance funding will end.

They want to spend $23 million from the general fund reserves the next year to keep those positions.

As per the preliminary budget outline presented to the school board on Tuesday, the state would provide $51.8 million more in funding, primarily due to legislative efforts to reduce cross-subsidies for English learners and special education and a 4% increase in the per-pupil formula.

St. Paul School Budget Proposal Projects Higher Expenditures Than Revenue

However, the actual amount should be slightly higher because the district failed to factor in new state funding to cover payments made to hourly workers for summer unemployment insurance.

The district computed $76.4 million in line items, which will hurt the budget. These expenses include $7.8 million for a new East African magnet school, teacher recruiting, expanded bus routes, safety upgrades, and $12.8 million in lost income related to the anticipated loss of 800 pupils.

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Despite the more than $20 million deficit expenditure, the district would still have 6.6 percent of annual spending in reserves, higher than the school board’s minimum requirement of 5 percent.

However, the district can’t rely only on its reserves indefinitely.

The budget for 2024-25 requires some problematic trade-offs, says Jackie Turner, the executive head of administration and operations.

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“Over the next budget year, our budget situation will look drastically different than it does right now,” she says. “We’re going to have to make some hard decisions.”

The school board finally held a public meeting to examine the 2023–24 budget last week, months after principals received their budget allocations on March 24.

Board members expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of depth in the budget presentation; they will revisit the budget during a meeting on June 6 but were informed they won’t receive the complete budget book until June 16, four days before they vote to adopt it.

The district is spending money to keep class numbers down, notably by doing away with multi-grade classes for students in grades 3 and under, it was revealed on Tuesday. Despite having 500 fewer kids, according to Andrew Collins, executive head of schools and learning, elementary schools will have more instructors in 2019.

As per Tom Sager, executive chief of financial services, revenue may exceed expectations because enrollment appears steady. Less than 1% of the district’s pupils have left during the current school year, around one-third of the average number.

“That shows signs that we’re coming to some kind of equilibrium with our enrollment,” he stated.

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