The governor is giving schools more money, but Sioux Falls is still bracing for budget cuts. Governor Kristi Noem’s education funding budget calls for a 2.5% increase. However, Sioux Falls Superintendent Brian Maher says the actual increase is 1.8%, if you take out the .7% of one-time money from last year.
In the past, the Sioux Falls School District could dip into its fund balance to make ends meet. Maher says that will no longer be an option after fiscal year 2020.
District leaders are predicting a nearly $1.4 million shortfall in the FY 2020 budget. To keep that from happening, it has made what Maher calls responsible cuts and are shifting some things around. Under this, the district is reducing the special education budget. A program called Early Intervening Services is seeing the heaviest reductions.
The district is proposing a more than $175-million budget. In there, you’ll find a few increases, including adding $2.7 million in teacher salaries, which adds up to a 2.75% raise. Still, Maher says every budget comes with tough choices.
“There have to be some deletions along the way. So, you’ll see some cuts here and some additions there,” Maher said.
School leaders are looking at a proposal that reduces the special education budget. Business Manager Todd Vik says the district isn’t cutting plans for children identified as special education students. However, if approved, it could cut $1 million to coordinated early intervening services. That’s a federally funded program for students who don’t qualify for special ed, but need some extra help.
The district is also moving $550,000 from a program under the special ed budget to the general fund, and replacing a reading program with one that title one money pays for.
“The idea wasn’t to cut the programs, but to change one of them and fund the other in the general fund,” Vik said.
Other cuts to avoid the projected $1.4 million shortfall include reducing the number full time employees who are education assistants in certain programs. However, the district says that doesn’t mean handing out pink slips. Vik says that means just not hiring as many people as it did for 2019.
“We have staff turnover every year. We have new positions for additional students coming in that get budgeted. So, there’s places for everybody next year. So, no, nobody will lose their job because of the cuts,” Vik said.
Some of you may wonder why this budget proposes cuts when the district is building two new schools. Maher says that money comes from a separate budget. Last September, voters approved a $190 million property tax opt out for the projects.