Understanding Our Budget Reality
In our schools and across the district, spring is a time of great change as we finalize our budget and, as has been the case for many years, determine what cuts are necessary to continue providing a high-quality learning and working environment for all of our students and staff.
As you are likely aware, SPPS is facing a $42 million budget shortfall next year. Declining enrollment and increasing costs for essential services are some of the primary factors contributing to this budget reality. At the same time, funding formulas from the state have fallen further behind in covering the full cost of providing mandated services. Federal relief dollars (ESSER and ARP) are helping to make up the difference, but we must continue to use those resources responsibly knowing that they have an expiration date.
Along with SPFE President Leah VanDassor and representatives from school districts and education organizations around the state, I spoke at the Special Education Day of Advocacy at the State Capitol last week to urge our legislators to fully fund special education. Our special ed cross-subsidy alone is $51.5 million, with another $25 million for English learner services. While we all hope the legislature will act to close these gaps, we have to plan our budget assuming they will not.
As is the case for every district, our biggest expense is salaries and benefits, which account for 80% of our general fund dollars. With a projected loss of over 1,800 students comes less revenue from the state and a need to reduce the number of staff required to serve a smaller number of students. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, from creating more split-grade classrooms in some of our elementary schools to not backfilling when people leave or retire from administrative positions.
Staffing changes are happening across the district, from schools to the cabinet level. With the departure of Chief of Staff Cedrick Baker and upcoming retirement of Chief Academic Officer Kate Wilcox-Harris, those positions are not being filled and their responsibilities are being distributed across other divisions (read about the administrative changes here).
We also have staff whose positions are being eliminated and will be navigating the next steps according to their individual contract language. Licensed staff will follow the interview and select process followed by the placement process. Non-licensed staff will receive placements following the process laid out in their contract and depending on open positions.
Human Resources has updated its resources for employees impacted by staff reductions. There are additional resources available at spps.org/Page/4120 regarding job search tips, including pointers on resumes, cover letters and interviews. I know it’s difficult to end the year while waiting for a new opportunity. If you are one of the people impacted, I hope you will take advantage of these resources and find your next opportunity with SPPS.
Despite our budget challenges, I remain confident in our ability to innovate and adapt to meet the needs of our students and staff now and into the future. SPPS is a wonderful place to learn and work, and I am committed to keeping that promise to you, our students and community.
If you want to learn more about the budget, I encourage you to attend one of the budget information meetings being held virtually and in person this week, review the Board Book from the May 10 COB meeting (starting on page 178), and watch the SPPS Budgeting 101 video.
Joe Gothard, Superintendent