Hopkins School Board hosted an engagement session Feb. 9 to discuss the state of the district’s budget. The district is in its second year of a two-year process to adjust the general fund budget and rebuild a system that aligns with the district’s Vision 2031.
The board’s duty, identified by Vision 2031 is to reimagine the schools from the ground up and to build a new paradigm of public education for all scholars, said Superintendent Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed.
District officials shared what the budget will be going into fiscal year 2022 and explained key features of the process. Community members could submit a question or provide a comment through a form posted on the district’s website.
The session is a continuation of work the district has been doing, said Tariro Chapinduka, the director of business services. District officials are putting mitigation processes in place to align resources with the vision and programs, he added.
Chapinduka said the district needs to restructure its system. They started restructuring with the current budget by reducing $2.5 million in expenditures, he said.
District revenue is categorized and the primary driver of revenue is enrollment, Chapinduka said. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted revenue for the current school year. The district projected an increase in enrollment, but was off by 113 students, according to data from the Association of Metropolitan School Districts. That equates to a loss of about $1.8 million.
School districts in Minnesota typically receive a 2% increase annually from state aid. This year, there is a possibility that districts won’t get any increase. No increase paired with declining enrollment would leave Hopkins with a $3.5 million deficit. That is the worst-case scenario, Chapinduka said.
The district is moving from an expenditure-based model to a revenue-based model of budgeting. The best way for the district to address department cuts is for department system leaders to take charge of identifying components with their staff and creating cost efficiencies, Chapinduka said.
The district is also working on a standardized predictable staffing model in school buildings. The model would use student-to-adult ratios to determine the minimum staffing needed to open a building.
The numbers the district has are still subject to change until the budget adoption in June, Chapinduka said. Building leaders are still clarifying the data. The district needs to know the final projection numbers and the increase in revenue. Those drive what is being allocated into the school buildings, he added.
Comments from the board
Boardmember Steve Adams is the co-chair of the Citizens Financial Advisory Committee. The committee makes recommendations to the School Board for the next year’s budget. The recommendations are based on assumptions that may or may not come true during the legislative session, he said. Based on some of the assumptions, district leaders are going to have to look at doing school differently next year, he added.
Vice Chair Shannon Andreson implored community members to advocate for school funding at the state level. Community advocacy will help as they talk with legislators about fully funding education in Minnesota, she said.
Future budget sessions
The School Board will host a series of virtual budget sessions on how the district can work with a smaller budget. The session information will be posted on hopkinsschools.org. Community members can also find recordings of past sessions on the website.
The “Doing Differently with Less: Innovations in Place, Space, and Learning” session will be 7-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 23. Open question and answer budget sessions will be 4:15-5:15 p.m., Tuesday, March 2, and 5-6 p.m., Tuesday, March 9.
The district will communicate with families to provide updates every other Tuesday on the budget process.