Simplified: Sioux Falls' public schools are eyeing a $276 million budget for the next fiscal year. Included are plans to add money to teachers' pocketbooks while keeping the portion from taxpayers' relatively flat.
Why it matters
- Sioux Falls has the largest public school district in the state, meaning that money is spent on educating roughly 24,000 students.
- Sioux Falls teachers would see, on average, a 3.1 percent salary increase, Business Manager Todd Vik said. That's an average of an extra $1,675 per teacher.
- Taxpayers would see a roughly 3 percent increase to their tax bill, though that's due more to higher assessed property values. The mill rate – the number used to calculate what property owners owe in school taxes – actually went down from the 2021 fiscal year.
- For context, looking at an approximately $200,000 house, owners would see less than $50 more in school taxes next year than the current year.
- This 2022 fiscal year budget also includes a breakdown of federal money Sioux Falls schools got to help with extra costs incurred amid the coronavirus pandemic. Officials stressed the importance of those funds.
"Otherwise, we would've been struggling to make ends meet," Vik said.
What are some line items to watch?
Because Sioux Falls saw enrollment dip in 2020, primarily at the elementary level, the new budget provides for about 15 fewer elementary school teachers than the current budget.
There's also room for 10 contingency teachers – usually the district budgets for two. But Vik said more are needed because the district doesn't have a good sense of what enrollment might look like in the fall, especially if all the kids who left the district during the pandemic decide to start coming back.
The district is budgeting for about nine more full-time counselors, partly due to the opening of two new buildings in Jefferson High School and Ben Reifel Middle School. Normally counselors would be pulled from existing buildings to staff the new schools, Vik said, but the pandemic called for change.
"Because of all the social-emotional issues, we wanted to lower that (counselor-to-student) ratio," Vik said.
The budget projections looking out to fiscal year 2026 depend on schools finding savings each year. Even with those efficiencies, the plan still would leave the district with about $8 million less in savings five years from now than it has today.
Without those efficiencies? The fund balance – effectively a savings account for the district – could drop to as low as 3.4 percent of the total budget. (The recommended level is 8.5 percent.)
What are schools spending COVID-19 relief money on?
All told, the Sioux Falls School District is expecting to spend about $54 million in COVID-19 relief money by the federal spending deadline (which varies between relief bills).
That's going for expenses including:
- $530,000 to run the HVAC systems more frequently, and another $2 million to add an electronic air cleaning system in schools.
- $1.2 million on additional counseling staff.
- More than $4.5 million combined on remote learning and the Virtual Academy.
- $900,000 to recruit and incentivize substitute teachers.
You can see a full breakdown of allowable expenses in the 45-page budget document.
What happens next?
Sioux Falls school board members will have one more chance this afternoon to ask detailed questions about the budget proposal before it is presented at a public hearing Monday, April 12.