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School districts thankful for $1.2 billion in additional state funds, see more need in future

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MINNESOTA (KTTC) -- This week the Minnesota Legislature passed an additional $1.2 billion in funding for public schools across the state as part of its newly passed budget.

This is the largest increase for school funding in 15 years for the state. Schools will receive an increase of 2.45% in general funding this year as well as increases to English as a Second Language (ESL) and Special Education funds.

Rochester Public Schools (RPS) will receive $4 million while Austin Public Schools (APS) will get $1.2 million. Other districts like Byron Public Schools are still figuring out the numbers.

"We think it's awesome here it's certainly something we will need and certainly will use," said new Byron Superintendent Mike Neubeck, Ed.D.

RPS will have its budget balanced this year with the boost in funding after facing a small deficit. It saves the district from having to tap into its reserves. APS had a balanced budget before the extra funding so this increase will help the district see small growth while keeping budgets stable.

While the state funding certainly helps, a big chunk of change helping to fund schools this year are grants from the federal government from COVID-19 relief packages passed. These grants will help for a couple years but districts are concerned for when the federal funding is no longer there.

"Once the federal funding goes away it will expose again kind of the structural imbalance in the state funding versus the needs that we have on an ongoing basis," said RPS Executive Director of Finance John Carlson.

That means the state will have to potentially pick up the tab to fill the funding holes.

"We will need the state of Minnesota to give us some additional revenues," said APS Executive Director of Finance Lori Volz.

Another issue all three districts agree on is funding formulas will need adjusting to help deal with inflation.

"That's awfully hard when you get money but then have to spend more money to keep up and those are things we can't always control," Neubeck said. "So until that's fixed, yeah, that's always going to be an issue."

The funds from the legislature are available this year for districts across the state.

RPS said this extra funding will also help fund and staff their new online-only learning option for the upcoming school year.

Zach Fuller

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