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ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – District 196 has scheduled three nights of focus group meetings the first week of December to get public input on $25 million in budget adjustment recommendations before they are presented to the School Board in January.

The focus groups will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on each of the following nights:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 4 at Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan;
  • Wednesday, Dec. 5 at Rosemount High School, and
  • Thursday, Dec. 6 at Falcon Ridge Middle School in Apple Valley.

There will be focus groups of parents, residents and community/business leaders, and employees each night. Some participants will be randomly selected and invited in a letter from Superintendent Mary M. Kreger. Anyone interested in participating can contact the superintendent’s office at 651-423-7723 or email supt@district196.org and include their name and phone number to reserve a spot.

A Budget Steering Committee has been meeting since September to develop the list of recommended cuts and revenue enhancements to address a projected $25 million budget shortfall over the next three years. After getting input from the focus groups, the committee will present its final recommendations as new business at the Jan. 7 School Board meeting. The board is expected to decide how much and what to cut for the 2019-20 school year at its Feb. 11 meeting. Additional cuts for the following two school years would be needed if district voters do not approve a local levy referendum that the board is likely to call for November 2019.

Director of Finance and Operations Jeff Solomon said the budget adjustments are necessary because basic education funding from the state has not kept pace with inflation. The general education formula allowance is the single biggest source of revenue school districts receive to support basic education. Since 2003, the gap between the actual and inflation-adjusted formula allowance has grown to $618 per pupil. If the formula had kept pace with inflation the last 15 years, Solomon said District 196 would be receiving an additional $18 million in state funding this school year.

The lack of adequate funding for special education is an even costlier issue for Minnesota school districts. This year, the gap between state and federal funding for special education and the actual cost of providing these mandated services, known as the special education “cross-subsidy,” will top $700 million statewide. In District 196 alone, the funding shortfall for special education was $28 million last year and is expected to be even larger this year. As a result, the district needs to use general fund dollars to make up the difference.

For more information about the focus group meetings, call the superintendent’s office at 651-423-7723.

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