The November 5th Referendum asked for an operating levy increase of $550 per student, or approximately $5.6 million per year to continue the strong academic preparation of our students, prevent cuts to programs and services, maintain class sizes and manage growing enrollment in our district. The operating levy was not approved by voters. Without this funding, expenses will continue to outpace revenue and the district now needs to make budget cuts moving forward.
For years, state funding has not kept pace with inflation or increasing operating costs, and does not close the funding gap for our special education services. The district has worked hard over the last decade to implement cost containment measures to minimize classroom impacts. These budget cuts totaled nearly $10 million in the last decade – including $3.5 million in the last three years alone. Over the last two years, the School Board chose to use $5.6 million in fund balance in addition to those cuts to avoid impacts on school programs and services. It is not sustainable to continue to draw from the fund balance.
With the failure of Question One in the November referendum, the school district is now faced with the task of developing a budget proposal to address upcoming shortfalls. The district needs to make $5 million in cuts for the 20-21 school year, $3.5 million for the 21-22 school year, and $1.7 million for the 22-23 school year. Right now, staff throughout the district are working on generating ideas for cost containment and will leave no stone unturned. It is important to understand that no decisions have been made. The district has no intention of gutting programs, music or otherwise, but there will be budget cuts that affect programs and services at every level. The cuts the district must make now will impact students, staff, and our community.
The budget committee will meet next month to develop a proposal, which the School Board will hear at its regular meeting on January 27. That proposal will also be communicated to parents via the district website and the 112 Online. There will be an opportunity for community input and feedback on the proposal on Wednesday, January 29th at 6:30 p.m. at Chanhassen High School. The Board will approve the budget plan at its February meeting.
This is a difficult and painful process, but the School Board and district staff are committed to doing everything possible to put forward a budget by June 30th that is both fiscally responsible and continues to support our students and staff to the best of our ability.