At the June 1 School Board meeting, the Hopkins School Board unanimously approved a structurally balanced budget for the 2021-22 School Year. The approval marked the culmination of an eight-month, collaborative process that included recommendations from the Citizens Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC), a series of school board workshops, community engagement sessions, and weekly “reimagine your schools” sessions held between cabinet and principals.
During the budget process, Hopkins created a predictable staffing model, which aligns each building’s resources to its enrollment, the primary funding source for the district. In addition, each building receives discretionary funding, allowing principals to have a level of autonomy over their schools.
“This is the culmination of a lengthy and involved budget process that has included building a revenue-based budgeting infrastructure, complete with predictable staffing models for our schools as well as a digital platform so budget managers can closely monitor their budgets,” said Superintendent Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed at the start of the presentation.
This is the second and final year of Hopkin’s efforts to right-size its budget. Last year, the district cut $2.5 million from its budget and expected to cut roughly the same amount this year. However, the district experienced an unexpected dip in enrollment due to the pandemic after seeing increased enrollment in 2019 and again in 2020. This decrease was not outside what other school districts were experiencing and resulted in an additional $1 million cut from the budget.
Director of Business Services Tariro Chapinduka acknowledged that this year’s budgeting process was especially difficult due to volatility related to the pandemic. Enrollment trends were difficult to predict as families made decisions based on a number of factors outside the control of the district. In addition, although additional federal aid is available to districts, the funding is one-time and is earmarked for specific purposes. Hopkins is currently creating a process to use the dollars as strategically as possible and within the guidelines.
“This has been a tough and challenging year,” said Chapinduka. “We are still waiting on our funding formula from the state, so these numbers may change.”
Although the state has yet to decide its funding formula for schools, the budget brought forward by Hopkins assumes a 3 percent cost of living adjustment and a 2 percent increase in benefits. Chapinduka reported that over 80 percent of the general fund expenses are staff salaries and benefits.
At the end of the budget presentation, School Board Chair Jen Bouchard thanked Director Chapinduka for his leadership in the budget process throughout the last two years.
“This process has been essential to set our district up for success in the long term,” she said. “I want to take a moment to recognize what an incredibly heavy lift this was, and we could not have done any of it without your leadership. You brought a new perspective to the board and the District.”