Minneapolis Public Schools kicks off transparent budgeting process

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After sharing and publicly discussing its projected $33 million deficit for next school year, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is soliciting feedback from the Minneapolis community to determine how to move forward. The district has also created new tool, the first of its kind in the area, to allow public access to all MPS budgets.

In his letter to the community this past February, Superintendent Ed Graff outlined the financial challenges faced by the school district. He pledged then and continues to be committed to a structurally balanced budget by the 2019-20 school year. That means MPS needs to make important decisions about its basic infrastructure so the programs and services it offers do not continue to cost more than it can afford.

“Everything is on the table,” Graff explained. “We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. We look forward to hearing from those who care about public education and making MPS stronger than ever.”

Over the past two decades, many factors have impacted the size and scope of school district budgets across the country. Cost-drivers include: underfunding of Special Education and English Language services; unfunded mandates; negotiated salary increases; irregular cuts in state funding; enrollment declines; levels of transportation service; and inflation. These factors led to deficits in MPS over the past seven years. 

Each year, MPS has been able to balance its budget by accessing funds from its reserves (fund balance) — reducing reserves from more than $122 million to about $42 million now. That is just 6.8 percent of the district’s operating budget, below the 8 percent required by Minneapolis Board of Education policy. If the district accesses the fund balance again next year, it risks going into statutory operating debt. MPS can no longer borrow from the fund balance to balance its budget.

The district has identified four priorities as it examines what structural changes can be made to reduce costs:

  1. All recommendations, considerations and decisions must be weighed by their impacts on students.
  2. Schools must have the staff they need to support their students.
  3. MPS must provide — and provide well — basic core learning elements for all students.
  4. Common community values must move the district forward.

 The district will follow the timeline below to finalize its budget for the 2018-19 school year:

  • October 2017: Preliminary budget presented to the Board of Education
  • October/November 2017: Community input on long-term budget strategy
  • November/December 2017: MPS leadership makes budget recommendations
  • January 2018: Budget planning based on recommendations
  • February 2018: School funding allocations and discussions
  • March 2018: Budgets finalized
  • April/May 2018: Board of Education reviews budget
  • June 2018: Board votes on final budget

To learn more about the MPS budget and see how to share your thoughts, get involved or find answers to your questions, visit http://www.mpls.k12.mn.us/mps_budget.

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