Shakopee schools provide few details on budget 'error'

Shakopee Public Schools provided some new information on a $4.5 million budget error, but the superintendent continues to remain publicly silent—despite growing anxiety among parents and district employees.

Last week, Dr. Rod Thompson, the superintendent, sent a district-wide email explaining there was a $4.5 million budgeting mistake caused by “human errors.” The email noted a new finance director had been hired, and will begin June 1. The finance director tied to the mistake will retire shortly after and currently remains employed by the district.

The letter noted that the district hired a forensic CPA to look into the problem, but the district has not made the financial report available yet. On Tuesday, the district told Fox 9 the report prepared by a part-time CPA “is expected to be available at our April board meeting…There are a lot of moving parts and this will take some time.”

The district also responded to Fox 9’s requests for additional information about where the budget mistakes, explained as “inaccurate budgeting assumptions, omissions and errors,” occurred in the budget. A spokesperson said the mistakes concerned overestimated special education revenue and underestimated expenditures for special education, special education transportation, athletics/activities, summer school and expenditures from various smaller budgets that added up collective. The district also said it underestimated benefits/TRA/PERA for an employee group or staff.

The district has said it still plans to end the year’s budget in the black, and the board chair told Fox 9 they hope to make up for lost money through “natural attrition,” but could not make any promises. Meanwhile, rumors and anxiety over possible job cuts continue to spread through Shakopee schools.

The district spokesperson told Fox 9, “We are currently going through our staffing process which needs to review class registration numbers, license requirements, and expected enrollment changes.”

The school board was aware of the error on Dec. 12, 2016, when the finance director mentioned a budgeting mistake in a board meeting and took responsibility for it. Video of the meeting shows board members did not immediately respond with any probing questions about the error.

The superintendent has declined or ignored Fox 9’s multiple requests for an interview.