The St. Michael-Albertville school district planned to dip into its reserve funds for the upcoming school year, but new financial pressure stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the district’s financial concerns, leading to a decision to make cuts for fiscal year 2021, which begins this July 1st.
“There are significant reductions in our revenue for a number of reasons, and our expenditures have increased, too,” Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said.
The district had planned to hold off on budget reductions until the 2021-2022 school year but decided to start cuts sooner in response to the worsening outlook. The school board took action to reduce the budget by $610,000 for next school year based on district leadership recommendations. The cuts include five certified staff members and six support/custodial positions. The district also instituted a hiring freeze for the 2020-2021 school year.
The certified staff reductions include eliminating one section of kindergarten, which Foucault said still keeps them within class size targets of 20 kindergarteners per section. Others include eliminating one teacher from St. Michael Elementary due to enrollment numbers, a high school math interventionist, and a media specialist at both Middle School West and St. Michael Elementary. Media specialists from Big Woods and Fieldstone will now cover STME’s media center needs. The Middle School West media specialist has been reassigned to fill a vacant position.
As for the six support positions, four are currently unfilled custodial jobs, so no jobs are lost in these cases. The other two cuts include one special education paraprofessional and one media paraprofessional. The district will also reduce subs in the buildings and grounds department by 30 percent.
Foucault said she and the administrative team used two guiding principles to decide where to cut. The first was to have the least impact on students and staff, and the second was to keep programming and class sizes as equal as possible across the district. However, she said the process wasn’t easy.
“These are people, and we are in the people business, so this has been extremely hard for the staff involved,” she said. “Our staff members are part of our family.”
The 2020-2021 hiring freeze will still take student needs into account. For instance, Foucault said they will reassess the decision to cut a section from Albertville Primary if enrollment comes in higher than predicted.
COVID Budget Effects
Foucault said it’s difficult to know the exact amount COVID-19 has cost the district so far due to many moving parts and uncertainties. The food service fund has lost approximately $400,000, and community education has lost between $500,000-$750,000. Community education has suffered the most because the district hired staff for spring programming that wasn’t able to run, and they hired staff for spring sports and activities but did not receive the activity fees that typically cover the costs.
Additionally, the district lost three months of facility rental fees, gate receipt money, and saw a decrease in investment earnings. It spent additional money on unemployment costs and health and safety purchases such as masks, PPE and cleaning supplies. She said they will determine the full impact once auditors complete the year-end audit process for fiscal year 2020.