Minneapolis, St. Paul school leaders approve budgets, say more cuts on the way

A young student walks to a school bus.
A student walks to board a school bus in St. Paul. School board members in St. Paul and Minneapolis recently OK'd budgets with significant cuts for the 2024-25 school year.
Lorna Benson | MPR News 2023

The St. Paul and Minneapolis school districts will implement widespread cuts and draw down reserves in the 2024-25 school year to close some $200 million in budget gaps, but leaders in both districts say more cuts are on the horizon as they continue to struggle with two decades of shrinking enrollment.

In St. Paul, board members this week voted 6 to 1 to approve a total budget for the coming school year of just over $1 billion for the state’s second largest district. It includes cuts meant to address a budget deficit of more than $100 million that district leaders say is largely the result of federal pandemic aid ending last September.

The district plans to make cuts to its food services fund, community education and general funds, although allocations to capital projects and debt service will increase.  

Schools will lose some custodial and nutrition staff, students will see changes to cafeteria menus, possible bus service cancellations, and the loss of one early childhood hub. 

Board member John Carlo Franco voted against the budget and was concerned the board hadn’t spent enough time deliberating the impact of cuts.

“Significant reductions in school-based maintenance support services that are going to keep our schools safe and clean and what that impact looks like for buildings being open past a certain time … I don’t know what those impacts are,” Franco said.  

“This is a tough budget cycle, tough decisions and we as a board know that a cut is somebody’s job,” said St. Paul board member Jim Vue, who voted to approve the budget. “A cut is how somebody provides for their family … we don’t lose sight of that.”

Along with tens of millions of dollars in cuts, the district expects to draw down $37 million from reserves to ease the impact on programs and people.

More cuts may be on the horizon for the 2025-26 school year, depending on how enrollment and other budget considerations look in the fall, said Tom Sager, the district’s executive chief of financial services.

Minneapolis school board members faced similar circumstances as they approved their budget this month. Though smaller than St. Paul, Minneapolis also had a deficit of around $100 million it needed to reconcile.

Like St. Paul, Minneapolis confronted inflation, new legislative requirement costs and the end of pandemic funds. 

To balance its 2024-25 budget, Minneapolis schools will draw from reserves, cut jobs and leave nearly 5 percent of its open staff positions unfilled. The district will also cut finance, human resources and cleaning staff, but leaders agreed to keep music teachers, assistant principals and language staff that had been identified for possible cuts. 

Still, the district is warning explicitly that more cuts are coming. Collin Beachy, the school board chair, told MPR News that he expects district leadership to begin looking at schools this summer to consider which locations might need to be closed. 

“It’s not going to just right-size itself in just a year or two,” Beachy said. “We’re going to be looking at some schools, seeing if we have to close some of these schools and consolidate some of these things.”