Facing $23M shortfall, St. Paul anticipates cuts in teaching positions, staff

The St. Paul school board considered budget cuts Tuesday that could equal 25 teaching positions and 69 classroom support staff positions, as the district grapples with a $23.3 million budget shortfall for next year.

The proposed budget assumes a 1.25 percent increase in the state education formula. Lawmakers in the Minnesota House and Senate, as well as the governor, have proposed increases ranging from 1.25 to 2 percent.

St. Paul officials say the budget shortfall is due in part to declines in enrollment and inflation costs.

The proposed budget would cut school funding by about $3 million, or 1.3 percent. Human resources director Laurin Cathey said reductions will likely be limited to non-tenured staff. Administration could see a 2.8 percent reduction.

Total position cuts may change as schools finalize their budgets — schools can choose to use extra funds to restore positions.

Chief financial officer Marie Schrul said the district expects to enroll about 1,100 students in the fall.

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Two budget categories slated for increases are district and school supports. That category includes transportation, which has seen costs rise.

Interim Superintendent John Thein said St. Paul is working to shift spending toward schools. School-level per-student spending is projected to increase just slightly more than the district's overall spending next year.

"The message that I'm trying to say is we're trying to put more money into students. Even though there's been a reduction in the amount of revenue, we're trying to spend money on kids," Thein said.

District leaders said several scenarios could increase revenue: a larger funding increase from the state Legislature, an increase in state special education funding or an agreement with the teachers' union to participate in a state program called Q-comp, or "quality compensation."

"We're not done here. This is a work in progress, and we know that there could be additional revenue," Thein said.

The St. Paul board plans to approve a final budget June 20.