Special education funding change costs Monticello Schools $1.6 million

- A change in the way special education programs are funded by the state has contributed to about a $2 million short fall in the Monticello school district.

For Monticello Schools, it is a crisis. The restructuring and a funding formula change to the district’s special education program has left them $800,000 short for two years in a row.

“When you’re a school district, you’re very labor intensive, 80 percent of your budget is people,” said Tina Burkholder, district finance director. “I can’t find $1.6 million in paper or pencils to cut.”

The district is now looking at cutting as many as 23 teachers and staff. To lessen that blow, State Representative Marion O’Neill filed legislation last week, hoping that in a non-budget year the Legislature can spend money to help Monticello Schools.

“Through no fault of their own they were given an erroneous number, they based their budgets on it, their levy on it,” said Rep. O’Neill. “It’s completely unique to Monticello.”

Department of Education officials told Fox 9 it’s not their fault as they sent out budget predictions based on data Monticello Schools sent them. But Monticello points the finger at the state, saying they were told one figure but got another.

“During this transition time when we were meeting and being told we had to switch, we were told we would have no harm - well, this is harm,” said Burkholder.

If the legislation filed by O'Neill gets passed in the Legislature, it would still need approval from Governor Mark Dayton.

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