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2018-19 Budget Questions and Answers

Why are budget reductions taking place?

  • The district receives most of its funding (72%) from the state of Minnesota on a per pupil basis. In recent years, state funding has increased by about 2 percent each year, equaling about $1.5 million in new revenue. Meanwhile, the district’s cost of doing business increases by about 3.5 percent per year, or about $4 million in new expenses.
  • This funding gap has been filled by using a fund balance (savings account) which the Board of Education strategically built up to weather the ups and downs of state funding. Now the savings account is dwindling so spending reductions must be made to align with our expenditures with revenue. We cannot keep spending more than we have.

What priorities were in mind as the proposed budget was developed?

We have identified these specific priorities during this process:

  • Raise achievement of students
  • Advance goals of Vision One91
  • Keep current class size guidelines
  • Maintain academic programming
  • Streamline efficiencies
  • Keep the promises made during the referendum.

What was the process for developing the budget:

We looked at every department to find efficiencies and savings. We are committed to being great stewards of our communities’ tax dollars, while continuing to implement changes to benefit our students. We must right-size staff and programs and keep them aligned with our current student enrollment. At the same time, we are maximizing our resources to add staff to support the social/emotional development of our students at all levels, and to increase academic opportunities.  

Voters approved a levy referendum in November so how can reductions be needed?
Whether or not the levy was approved, we’d be making adjustments. That’s because the cost of doing business increases by 3.5 percent each year while major source of funding (from the state) increases by only 2 percent. Fortunately, because the levy was approved our reductions will be around $4 million. If the levy had not been approved, cuts would total $12 million.

Did the district say that if the levy referendum passed, there would be no cuts?
No. We were upfront in our presentations that passing the levy would help to minimize future cuts. Here is the language from our levy handout:

  • Question 1: Renew an existing operating levy, which is due to expire. The levy provides $7.3 million in annual funding that supports day-to-day school and district operating expenses, including retaining quality staff, transportation costs, utilities, classroom supplies and other supports to student learning. Since this is a renewal, there is no tax increase if this is approved.
  • Question 2: Increase the operating levy to provide $3.9 million in additional annual funding to minimize future budget cuts, help maintain class sizes and protect student support and educational programs. Q2 is contingent on Q1; Q2 can only pass if Q1 is approved.

How does declining enrollment affect the district’s finances?

School districts receive most of their funding from the state of Minnesota on a per pupil basis, so when students leave the district there is a loss of funding. As our fully-developed district has aged, our enrollment has been gradually declining. We accounted for the usual amount of enrollment decline in the current budget, but enrollment loss was greater in the fall than expected when planning this year and that had an impact on the financial situation.

How is student supervision and support being changed at Burnsville High School?
With a new model for student supervision and support, we are able to strengthen supports for our students who may be experiencing difficulty in school, while also finding savings through restructuring. Student support will expand by adding deans, social workers, and an assistant principal. These are licensed educators who have the authority to make decisions and can immediately address situations and the needs of students that are affecting behaviors. The positions of educational assistants - level 3, who are referred to as campus supervisors, are being eliminated as part of the redesign.

Are teachers being required to patrol the hallways at Burnsville High during their prep time?
No. Teachers work seven periods each day. They teach for five periods, they have prep time during one period, and they have other supervision duties during one period in the lunchroom, study halls or hallways.

What will happen to current campus supervisors?
Campus supervisors are educational assistants - level 3 and are members of a union. The district works with the union to follow the contract language and determine whether the educational assistants - level 3 may have rights to other current positions or recall rights to future positions. They will also be able to apply for other vacancies in the district for which they are qualified.

How do special education costs affect the budget?
Currently the district must spend $12 million more than it receives from the state and federal government to pay for mandated special education services. The district would have $12 million more in revenue if the state and federal governments would fully fund the services that they require.

What’s happening with sports at our middle schools?
Update:
Gifted program, some middle school athletics added back to proposed budget

The proposal is to retain the sports with the greatest participation (boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, and boys and girls track) in all three middle schools. Students in 7th and 8th grade who want to participate in cross country, wrestling, tennis and dance are encouraged to do so at Burnsville High School and could take an after-school bus to get there. In addition, the Athletics and Activities Department is working with the Burnsville Youth Collaborative (BYC) and District 191 Community Education to strengthen after-school athletic offerings at each middle school.

What’s being added next year?
Here are some examples.

Burnsville High School:

  • Student support is being added with new deans, social workers and an associate principal
  • Pathway classes are being added. There will be a new Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class offered in partnership with the Burnsville Fire Department and Inver Hills Community College, and a redesigned Teacher Education Pathway that’s more robust, aligned and inclusive through a partnership with Normandale Community College.  

Middle schools

  • Full-time social workers are being added.
  • Full-time school psychologist in each school.

Elementary schools:

  • One full-time social worker in every elementary school.
  • Increased licensed school nurse time
  • New Chromebooks as personal learning devices in a ratio of 2 students to each one device. (Students in grades 6-12 all have their own personal learning device.)