Minneapolis schools project cutting hundreds of positions, but numbers are preliminary

 Incoming Mpls. schools superintendent Ed Graff
Minneapolis schools Superintendent Ed Graff speaks at Webster Elementary School on June 17, 2016.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2016

The Minneapolis school district will likely eliminate the equivalent of hundreds of staff positions as it works to fill its $28 million budget gap.

District officials gave a look at the potential staff impacts of next year's budget at a board finance committee meeting Thursday night.

Projected reductions across the district equal 288 full-time positions, with 235 of those at schools, according to a summary from the district's human resources department. Those numbers are still very preliminary — the board plans to approve a final budget in June, leaving room for changes.

Minneapolis is also planning for flat state funding. The governor and state lawmakers have proposed school funding increases ranging from 1.25 percent to 2 percent per year.

The proposed cuts stem from a 2.5 percent reduction to schools and a 10 percent central office reduction that Superintendent Ed Graff outlined in February.

"Our ultimate goal is to better align our resources to support student achievement," he said at Thursday's meeting.

Graff added that keeping class sizes down is a priority. The district doesn't know yet how many individuals will be impacted by the cuts.

Under the proposed budget, Minneapolis would draw on its reserves to fill the remaining $21 million shortfall. That would leave a reserve fund balance of 3.7 percent, which is below board policy. District staff said the 3.7 percent reserve would be enough to make payroll for two weeks if funding were cut off — during a government shutdown, for example.

Graff said he's striving for a realistic budget this year, after several years of unplanned mid-year deficits in Minneapolis.

"I directed my team to take a dramatically different approach to our budgeting by identifying our budget gap on the front end of the budget cycle, rather than overpromising and scrambling to address a mid-year shortfall when it surfaces," Graff wrote in a February letter to the board.