Board approves $1 billion budget for St. Paul Public Schools
The public school district in St. Paul will officially have a $1 billion budget for the first time next year.
On Tuesday night, the St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) Board of Education voted to approve the district’s 2024 fiscal year budget proposal, which kicks in next month.
The budget is up by more than $100 million from last year, with state funding making up $52 million of that increase.
SPPS says it will balance its budget with $34.4 million in reserve funds while staying above the required 5% fund balance.
Overall, the budget is larger than the 2023 budget for the city of St. Paul, which came in at $781 million. However, SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS earlier this month that the district will still face tough decisions in the upcoming year, noting that federal pandemic relief grants have expired, and the district is spending more than it’s making due to declining enrollment.
“What that might mean is there are people or services that were paid for or provided for during this time that will have to go away and that is inevitable. So again, that will be a very difficult but necessary thing for us to communicate in a very transparent way moving forward,” he said.
Added compensation for Gothard
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the board approved a couple of revisions to Gothard’s new contract, which was approved back in November and goes into effect next month.
That contract, which includes a $16,000 raise in the first year and has other benefits that push its annual value above $300,000 for Gothard, covers the next three years.
The changes approved Tuesday night increase Gothard’s retirement plan match and add another $4,000 per year to his deferred bonus for finishing the contract.
The original contract called for the district to match Gothard’s retirement plan contributions up to $9,000 per year but that will now increase to a $15,000 annual limit.
The extra $4,000 per year that he’ll get if he’s still with the district when his contract expires on June 30, 2026, means Gothard will get nearly $70,000 if he finishes out the deal rather than just shy of $58,000, as he was set to get under the original terms of the contract.
Altogether, the revisions from Tuesday night added an extra $30,000 that Gothard can make in the next three years.
Athletic fees increasing
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the board increased athletic fees for the first time since they were implemented in 1996. The district says those increases will be phased in over the next two years but pledged not to turn any students away over an inability to pay.
The plan will raise full fees from $45 to $60 and the free/reduced fee from $20 to $30 for the 2023-24 year, with a few exceptions. The following year, the fees are scheduled to jump to $90 for full fees or $40 for free/reduced, again with just a few exceptions.
The district says the fees pay for things like equipment, uniforms and tournament costs, and the current fees are much lower than neighboring districts.
School name change finalized
Finally, the school board approved a new name for the schools formerly known as Phalen Lake Magnet Hmong Studies Magnet and Hmong Language & Culture Middle School. Their names will now change to Txuj Ci Hmong Language and Culture Lower Campus and Txuj Ci Hmong Language and Culture Upper Campus, respectively.
The district says the new name refers to “the cultural knowledge of a people” and was chosen in collaboration with students, staff and community members.
Huam Vam — which in Hmong means “to prosper,” “to grow,” “to flourish” — came in second behind Txuj Ci.