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School districts could face budget cuts in coming fiscal year

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As budgeting season approaches, some school districts are eyeing potential cuts

Some South Dakota school districts are eyeing possible budget cuts in the near future. This comes despite the state ranking last in teacher pay, a major workforce shortage, and millions of surplus dollars in the state's budget.

At the most recent Sioux Falls School District board meeting, business manager Todd Vik shared funding proposals for fiscal year 2024.

“We’re going to ask for three levels of funding this year, one as always is your current program – that’s what it take next year to do what you’re doing this year," Vik said. "Then we ask them to do at 99% of current year program. Then the lowest level is at 96% of current program. If you look out over our five-year plan, we call for an overall 4% cut over a four-year period.”

It’s a familiar consideration across the state. South Dakota Education Association communications director Sandra Waltman said state government can alleviate much of this pressure.

“From our point of view, no school district should be looking at cuts at a time when the state has an excess of $100 million in surpluses at the end of the fiscal year," Waltman said. "So, to help those districts be able to fund those positions and the support for those students, they really need to step up and give a significant increase to education this year that’s beyond the usual three percent.”

Waltman said when budgets are cut, it’s often support staff like paraprofessionals to go first.

“It puts more stress on the administration, the teachers, and the support staff, so it’s crucial that we have all these positions filled. But districts need to have budgets that allow them to compete in this labor market,” Waltman said.

Waltman said an education budget increase closer to six percent would allow schools to avoid cuts and keep up with inflation.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.