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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Rochester School Board is meeting for a special study session today to discuss major spending reductions for the next school year.

Superintendent Kent Pekel is presenting the elected officials with his recommendations for cutting spending by $14 million. The reduction target was previously at around $7 million, but Pekel says the higher wages and benefits approved for the Rochester Education Association and other school district employee bargaining units have caused that number to double.

Kent Pekel

The Superintendent’s recommendations call for cutting  77 full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions to cut spending by nearly $8 million. The second largest proposed spending reduction would save the Rochester School District just over $2 million by eliminating 42 education support professional positions, which were formally known as paraprofessionals.

A list of other staffing cuts involving administrative personnel, clerical positions, school nurses, maintenance staff, and others would account for the remaining $4 million in needed spending reductions. Pekel notes the staffing cuts that involved a third of the School District’s Administration cabinet positions last summer were included in the current budget.

photo by Catherine Yeulet (Thinkstock)

In addition to the proposed cuts, Pekel is recommending the use of $7.4 million in Federal COVID-19 funding to maintain critical services to students. The proposed budget parameters also call for using $200,000 from the school district reserves and delaying $2 million in payments to a health savings account and a fund used to pay for unused sick time at retirement or other employee departures. The superintendent the temporary pauses in the fund transfers will not impact retiree benefits.

The recommendations will now be studied by the school board members, who are expected to take a formal vote on the parameters of the 2023-2024 budget at a meeting next month. Pekel says that vote would not authorize any specific cuts because those decisions will need to wait for more discussions with building principals and department leaders in the coming months. The recommended cuts could also become unnecessary if there is a significant increase in state funding.

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