Rochester schools budget adds teaching positions
The Rochester School Board delved into the district's proposed $211 million general fund budget for the 2016-17 school year during Tuesday's meeting.
Projecting a shortfall last year, the district asked voters for more local money in November; voters approved that request, providing the district with about $9.6 million per year for 10 years . The extra money was intended to sustain the district's current level of programming.
But even with the extra money from voters, district leaders and school board members still face budget challenges. Three areas will see a significant boost in funding this year, the district's gifted and talented program, elementary "special areas," and the Career and Technical Education Center at Heintz, or CTECH .
That money translates into instructors for each of the areas and breaks down like this:
• Five additional elementary "special areas" teachers to reduce travel time for instructors and "provide more continuity"
• Increase 2.2 FTE teachers and one paraprofessional for CTECH programming
• Additional 2.5 FTE teachers for increase in enrollment in gifted and talented program
The addition of five elementary special area teachers was an issue Superintendent Michael Muñoz said was brought up at every elementary school listening session. Like art and music teachers
It was difficult for the teachers to build relationships and feel a part of that building, he said.
All seven of the CTECH career pathways will be open. In order to get them up and running, they added teachers, Muñoz said.
The district will receive about $242,000 in state aid for its Gifted and Talented programs, but will budget $1.2 million next year because the district has had an increase in gifted and talented students.
"It's really been many years since staff have been added as the program grows," Muñoz said.
But the district still faces a number of challenges. Unfunded mandates from the Legislature rose from $15 million last year to about $16 million this year.
The Legislature funds the majority of the district's general fund budget, about 76 percent, the rest comes from property taxes, local revenue and federal aid. This funding model forces the district to rely heavily upon the state for funding.
This can pose challenges said school board members Tuesday, because lawmakers will mandate certain things without providing funding for them.
For example, the district doesn't receive full funding for special education from the state, so it has to make up that difference with the general fund balance, said John Carlson, director of finance for the district. The district expects this will be challenging next year because its special education enrollment increased by about 160 this year.
"What we're going to be looking at the next several years is reallocating and shifting, I mean, that's just the way it's going to have to be," Muñoz said. "If that continues, if we keep getting 161 more (special education) students, we're going to have to balance that out somehow."