Shakopee Public Schools will need to cut 48 teachers, or 8% of its teaching staff, for the 2021-22 school year if a levy doesn’t pass come November, administrators said at a School Board meeting June 22.
Regardless of whether a levy passes, the district will tighten its belt by way of $450,000 in non-layoff spending cuts next year and eliminating at least 22 full-time-equivalent non-teaching positions for 2021-2022.
The cuts were presented Monday in the wake of a long-discussed $2.5 million budget deficit for the 2021-22 school year that, if left alone, would snowball until the district’s fund balance is $26 million in the hole by 2024. Superintendent Mike Redmond has said that can’t happen.
Under the best-case scenario, Redmond said, an operating levy would pass and allow teachers to retain their jobs for the 2021-2022 year. But even if it does pass, there is no getting around additional fat-trimming the district must make.
The district will trim $450,000 by not filling five open non-teaching positions next year. It will also trim its non-payroll budgets, like the district-wide supply budget and the staff development fund.
For the 2021-22 school year, $1.6 million in cuts will largely affect district administration, paraprofessionals and learning coaches. Those cuts will include Shakopee High School Assistant Principal Scott Doran, seven digital learning and instructional coaches, 10 paraprofessionals and a reduction of spending on Learning, Teaching and Equity.
Another $90,000 in full time equivalent positions will also be cut from the district’s superintendent office.
Redmond said the non-teacher cuts won’t directly impact students but will be felt across the district.
“Everything we do in the school district supports students in one way or another. ... Some are pretty direct,” Redmond said. “Others, you might not see it, but if you take those pieces away, it becomes more challenging to provide high-quality support."
48 teachers nixed in absence of levy
The impact would be directly felt by students if an operating levy referendum doesn’t pass come November, as 48 teaching positions would be cut. The cuts would amount to $5.4 million.
“There’s nothing that I have any pleasure in sharing here; it’s just our economic reality,” Redmond said as the board skimmed the list of possible cuts.
Despite the shaky economy, board members seemed largely opposed to cutting teachers without giving voters the chance to take to the ballot box.
“It’s our job to improve the quality of education in our districts,” board member Matt McKeand said. “I don’t see how taking 48 teachers out of our workforce ... is doing that. Quite the opposite.”
At a virtual school board coffee chat with Shakopee residents, board Chairwoman Kristie Peterson said she favored the levy to save teaching positions that would otherwise be lost.
“When I look at cutting 8% of our teachers, our students are the ones who will suffer,” she said. “If we just go out and make $5.4 million in cuts without the community having a say, I think that’s wrong. We’re in a tough situation. But this is about the future.”
The school board voted to voluntarily forgo their member stipends as part of the cuts for next year — something Peterson says she hopes will show voters that the board is taking the district’s dire financial situation seriously.
The tax impact of an approved levy
District Finance Director Bill Menozzi said because $4.9 million of the district’s debt relief is falling off in 2021, most taxpayers would pay less in district taxes next year if an operating levy passed.
The school board is considering three phased-in operating levy options, meaning the taxes would be paid over the course of the next three to four years in smaller dollar amounts each month.
Board members and Redmond said the phased-in approach seems the most prudent in today’s economic climate.
One operating levy option would be a $9 million request paid over the course of the next four years. For a home valued at $280,000, this option would carry an average net tax impact of about $4 each month after subtracting the dollars falling off from the district’s debt levy. This option would require $450,000 in additional cuts in 2025.
Another option is to ask for $2.7 million each year for taxes payable 2021, 2022 and 2023. In order to keep pace with the district’s expenses, this option would require an additional $900,000 in budget cuts for the 2023 school year, and it would carry a net tax impact of about $4.25 each month over the course of the next three years for a home valued at $280,000.
A third option is an $8 million levy spread out over the course of the next four years, which would equate to an average net tax impact of $3.70 each month for a homeowner with a $280,000 property.
This scenario would require an additional $1.8 million in budget cuts made in 2023 and 2026.
School board directed district staff on June 22 to narrow the options and present a specific phased-in operating levy to be considered at its July 11th school board retreat.
“We know people are hurting. There are people that have lost their jobs. … We are not trying to put additional pain into our community,” Peterson said. “But our district is not going to look the same if we have to make $5.4 million in cuts. I think the phased-in levy is prudent and responsible.”
Correction: a previous version of this article misstated the amount of cuts the district will make for the 2020-2021 school year. The correct amount is $450,000.