Shakopee Public Schools faces $4.5 million 'error'

A $4.5 million “human error” has parents and teachers of Shakopee Public Schools concerned about the district’s future.

The school board was made aware of the problem at a Dec. 12, 2016, meeting. But the superintendent waited until last Friday, March 19, to e-mail district employees, writing “human errors” led to a “series of inaccurate budgeting assumptions, omissions and errors” caused by the “district finance office leadership.”

Scott Swanson, the school board chair, elaborated on the mistake to Fox 9, blaming issues “like staffing that had been approved but not added to the budget, and when that happens year after year, it starts to compound and you have a shortfall.”

A sometimes angry and emotional crowd filled the school board’s Monday night meeting, asking to learn more about the cause of the mistake, how it’s being solved, and why it took the district months to send any official notice of the problem.

“I’m even more concerned now that they knew about it for several months and didn’t bring it to the taxpayers. If I wasn’t a long term sub here in the district, I wouldn’t have gotten the e-mail and I wouldn’t know about it,” Ann Conrad, a longtime substitute teacher in the district, told Fox 9.

The board chair said it was important to first reach out to staff before rumors spread.

“We felt like it was important to be transparent directly with district staff, and the main reason wasn’t to exclude anybody in the public. But that some of the help we were looking for was going to have to come from district employees,” Swanson told Fox 9.

Despite the shortfall, the district plans to finish the school year in the black, causing meeting attendees to worry about layoffs or increased class sizes. The board chair said they hope to solve the problem through attrition, but can’t make promises.

“It is our goal as a district to use natural attrition if we have to do any staffing changes. Natural attrition is the process if an individual leaves the district for any reason, we don’t backfill,” Swanson said.

The board has hired a new finance director.

The board will hold a public meeting to discuss the issue on April 10.