St. Paul schools see $17 million budget shortfall

St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard answers questions
St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard answers questions from reporters as St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, left, and St. Paul Federation of Teachers President Nick Faber listen inside of Galtier Elementary in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The St. Paul school district is projecting a $17 million budget gap for next year.

The budget projection presented at a board meeting Tuesday is preliminary because it simply rolls over the current year's spending with adjustments for inflation and expected changes in revenue. Marie Schrul, the chief financial officer for St. Paul schools, said the estimated gap will likely shrink with one-time spending from the current year removed.

Still, filling the projected gap will likely require cuts. Schrul said district officials will make choices about cuts in the coming months, as they aim to create a balanced budget.

"We fund the schools first, and we create the budgets for the schools making sure they're viable then we do the allocations for the programs. The programs are where we look at other ways for efficiencies," Schrul said. "We've been very lean the past few years."

Schrul told board members the district expects a $6.6 million increase in revenue from higher per-student state funds and a tax levy. Expenses are projected to go up by nearly $24 million, driven mainly by inflation costs for salaries and benefits.

Schrul said the budget includes a one percent teacher salary raise for next year but no other added costs from a tentative teacher contract agreement, reached Monday with the district to avert a planned strike.

Although it faces a gap, St. Paul's projected budget situation this year is better than last year when it faced a $23 million deficit.

Schrul said budget information will be available at community presentations this spring. The St. Paul school board plans to approve next year's budget in June.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.