The District 200 School Board approved a budget reduction of up to $500,000 for the 2017-18 school year at its meeting Feb. 21. Even with the reduction, the district will still be about $1.3 million over budget. Superintendent Tim Collins said that more cuts are expected.
"As we look to the following year, we know as a board too, that we could be making up to $2 million in cuts a year from now," Collins said in the meeting.
Finances are driven by student enrollment because many of the state's formulas for distributing money is based on how many students are in the school district, Collins said. The population in Hastings is an aging population. The median age for a woman in Hastings has increased to about 41 years old.
With the declining enrollment trend and the fact that the district was over budget for next year, Collins said they had to look to reduce. Increasing health insurance costs, increasing operations and staff costs combined with the amount of revenue lost from declining enrollment are reasons the district is looking to reduce, Collins said.
About 80 percent of the budget is used for people; Collins said the district may need to cut some teacher positions, but with some upcoming resignations and retirements, the cut may not go as deep. Every time a teacher or staff person retires or resigns, he said, the district analyzes their options.
"A reduction is a reduction, but when you're able to do it through the retirement and resignation process then it's a lot less painful for everyone involved," Collins said.
Gov. Mark Dayton recently proposed spending an additional $609 million on Minnesota's public schools over the next two years. With his proposed budget plan, Hastings School District would receive an additional $2,406,568 for the 2018-19 school year. When Dayton took office in 2011, he pledged to increase investments in Minnesota's students every year he was governor.
When the finances were presented to the board, the increased amount of spending from the state was taken into account. The proposed budget plan would help the district, Collins said, but it is still not as much as they would like.
"We know there will be cuts again next year," Collins said.
The district needs to get that increased state funding in order to stay with what they are planning, Collins said.
Next year around January or February, when the board starts to look at budget cuts again, Collins said they should have better information. By that time, union contracts should be settled and they should know what the legislators plan to do.
Collins said that he is very appreciative of the community's understanding and support for the schools. Declining enrollment is something the district has been dealing with for several years, but Collins said that they have still been able to provide outstanding education and "we're definitely going to be able to provide that same outstanding education."