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Our Commitments to Fiscal Responsibility

Our Commitments to Fiscal Responsibility

When Finance Director Kampa and I were hired in 2019, we were provided very clear direction: balance the budget and engage our community in the future success of our school district. A lot has happened in the last year to divert us from those goals. And despite the challenges, we are proud to say we have balanced the current year budget and we are engaging our staff and community in long-term planning. As a new leadership team, we are committed to earning your trust.

As we prepare the FY2022 Budget Recommendations, we know the pandemic will have long-lasting impacts on our children and our families. Let’s face it— social isolation is not good for human beings. Our incredible staff remains dedicated to our mission — to develop well-rounded individuals who excel and achieve and are responsible citizens.

Over the last six weeks, we have been meeting with staff, parents and community members to discuss our budget challenges. At our public forum last week, Finance Director Chris Kampa wisely stated: “I believe the children in our schools today are the next ‘Great Generation.’” They will be shaped by a year that will forever impact their values. They have seen how hard adults work to make ends meet and they have experienced the most disruptive period we know. The best way we can help them learn, adapt and lead in the future begins with the education they receive in our Cambridge-Isanti Schools so they can be resilient moving forward.

Addressing a Revenue Shortfall

The responsibility to balance our budget when needs are great will be guided by our values of responsibility and self-discipline. As you know, we have cut $7.5M from a $60M budget over the last two years and balanced the budget both times. To be fiscally responsible moving forward requires us to use every tool at our disposal and make difficult decisions. 

Our revenue problem is not new. Our district receives less revenue per pupil than almost all other districts (bottom 7%), and $6.4M below the state average for a district our size. However, the only levers we have to balance the budget are on the expense side of the ledger. As projected last fall, our school district faces a $1.7M deficit.

As you may have read in the paper or on our website, we propose to close that gap with further reductions in administration, academic programs, activities and athletics, and eliminating our year-round school option. It also includes a $10,000 donation by First Bank and Trust to offset any increase in student activity fees for next year. We want to address two items in our plan that have received a lot of discussion in recent weeks.

School For All Seasons

In recent weeks, we have worked with families and staff to think creatively about how School For All Seasons might meet its budget reduction target, without closing the school. If we eliminate the year-round calendar and grow the program to district-average class sizes, it may allow us to maintain this special science-technology-environmental magnet program that families value. We are investigating combining it with C-I Schools Online (which we are required to provide) to run both efficiently. Families who are interested in attending School For All Seasons on a traditional school calendar should contact the school as soon as possible. We are preparing to make a final recommendation on April 22. 

Pandemic Relief and One-Time Funding

This year, we received one-time pandemic relief funding that we can use to offset a portion of our student support expenses next fall and avoid lay-offs. We are proposing to use $700,000 of this highly regulated funding to avoid additional teacher reductions or class size increases. We want to be transparent about this decision because it is a short-term solution. These funds were provided to support our current students’ pandemic-related challenges, and we intend to stretch them as far as they can go.

In the next few weeks, we will make a final recommendation to the Board about our FY2022 budget. There will be lay-offs, we will eliminate some programs, and we will balance our budget. We will also use the one-time Federal stimulus money to minimize the impact on current students as it is intended and preserve student supports. Coming off the disruption of the pandemic, we will focus on stability, academics, health and well-being of our students and community. It makes no sense to send that one-time funding back if we don’t use it.

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