Burnsville High School

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district officials last week approved millions of dollars in budget cuts for next year and decided to continue planning for a potential levy election.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the $129 million 2019-2020 budget at the June 20 meeting after taking a closer look at a work session the previous evening.

The 2019-2020 budget locks in $6.6 million in cuts and reductions, including layoffs and cuts to sports before ninth grade and other programming.

Around 76 percent of the budget will be spent on instructional staff members who work directly with students, said Lisa Rider, the district’s executive director of business. Middle school and high school classroom sizes will increase by two students.

The specifics of the cuts were worked out during the budgeting process that began in late November. Officials gathered feedback from residents through an online forum and a public hearing in February before reaching a final version of the budget this spring.

Facing an estimated $5.5 million in cuts in 2020-2021, district officials are considering a referendum to ask voters to approve a new operating property levy that would generate around $1.6 million for general expenses.

At a work session on June 21, the board consensus was to continue exploring the possibility.

Money that can be used as needed from the budget’s unrestricted fund balance is projected to sit at approximately $12.5 million, or 6.2 percent of total expenditures, at the end of the 2019-2020 year.

In 2018-2019, the same balance ended at $13.4 million, down about $600,000 from what was expected at the beginning of the school year.

Board member Eric Miller asked if officials felt confident a similar drop wouldn’t happen again.

Rider said the drop was caused by the teacher’s union settlement and reflected the environment they were in at the time. However, the budget will be revised as usual as final enrollment and audit numbers become available.

The current numbers are based-on a projected enrollment decrease of 189 students. In 2018-2019, the district experienced the largest enrollment drop of the decade with a 281 student decline.

Christine Schuster is a reporter for the Savage Pacer.

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