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Board, administration begin budget alignment process for 2020-21

Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 - At a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21, the South St. Paul School Board agreed to a budget adjustment target of approximately $1.17 million for the coming academic year. This discussion launches the district’s budget planning process for the 2020-21 school year. With fiscal parameters now established, administration will prepare recommendations for budget reductions, redesign and revenue generation (BRRRG) that will help address the district’s projected budget shortfall. 2020-21 Budget Graphic

“This year’s budget adjustments present the district with challenges and opportunities,” said Superintendent Dave Webb. “We know that we will have to look at reductions that will impact the level of service we are able to provide to students, families and staff. But we also look at it as an opportunity to explore how we can do things differently rather than just continuing business as usual. In the end, we hope to have a budget plan that, while leaner, still allows us to exemplify our mission and vision of preparing each and every learner for their next step.” 

Annually, the district undergoes a budget adjustment process to address funding shortfalls, changes in enrollment and other financial factors. At the Jan. 21 meeting, Director of Finance Aaron Bushberger presented background materials on the district’s financial picture, noting an anticipated funding gap for 2020-21 is about $1.17 million after accounting for planned financial adjustments, including utilizing existing reserves. 

Webb explained that next year’s anticipated budget shortfall is the result of state funding that is unfair to districts like SSPPS and does not keep pace with inflation. In addition, the district's enrollment trends continue to have incoming kindergarten classes that are smaller than the classes graduating from South St. Paul, resulting in overall declining enrollment across the district, which in turn results in less revenue as funding is dependent upon student enrollment.    

“As many in our community know from years of talking about the need for referendum equalization, school funding and budgets are complex,” Bushberger said. “We have worked hard to be good financial stewards of the taxpayers’ money and we continue to be strategic in how we use our limited resources. By utilizing additional resources at our disposal, such as utilizing our Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) trust fund and the district’s fund balance, we are able to reduce the overall budget gap for next year. Our challenge now is to work together to address the remaining shortfall so that we can uphold our fiscal promise to the community.” 

Bushberger stressed that drawing on trust funds and fund balances is a short-term solution, and that the district needs to continue to look at structural changes in how funding is allocated and used in SSPPS to ensure long-term financial health and stability.

Next Steps

Over the next six weeks, the district administration will develop BRRRG recommendations for the School Board to review and adopt in March. To help inform the development of budget adjustments, the district will be seeking input from students, staff, families and community on the vision for SSPPS in 2025 and beyond.

“The community engagement process currently underway does not focus on specific budget items, but rather relies on the collective wisdom of all stakeholders in identifying and shaping the future of SSP Schools,” said Susan Brott, director of communications. “By focusing on what we want the daily experience of students, staff and families to be in the future, we are better able to direct and invest district resources where it matters most.” 

The School Board is slated to receive a first reading of the BRRRG recommendations at its meeting on March 9, and are scheduled to act on the recommendations at its meeting on March 23. This timeline allows administration to then implement the adjustments as it develops a final 2020-21 budget, which is required to be approved by school districts in June. 

For additional information on district finances, visit the district website at