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BUDGET MESSAGING: SEIZE THE NARRATIVE

By Jeff Dehler, APR


Public school districts in Minnesota are staring into the face of huge budgetary unknowns due to significant and monumental legislation currently under consideration by the Minnesota Legislature. Our excellent school district associations are keeping us updated and will provide at least a first glance assessment of the impact to districts as soon as the session ends, but it will take our financial advisors and business managers weeks, months, and maybe years to know the lasting impacts.


"Historic" education investment

At DehlerPR, we're concerned with the messaging coming from St. Paul, and the impact these messages will have on districts with expiring operating levies. In the Star Tribune, House Speaker Hortman called the education investment "historic." What she didn't mention are the many proposals to increase public education expenses.


School districts: Speak up now!

Now is the time for public schools to set the stage with voters.


In order to take control of the narrative, we recommend:

  • Developing a set of key messages about budget issues and sharing them with staff, families, and community opinion leaders beginning as soon as possible so politicians don’t control the narrative

  • Creating or upgrading your communications infrastructure and fostering personal relationships with community opinion leaders in order to disseminate these key messages

  • Preparing, with the help of your financial advisors, budget scenarios that allow you to quickly plug in legislative outcomes when they are finalized, especially if you plan to run a referendum this year, so you can determine your ballot question(s) and tell your story.

Potential messages

We're excited about the possibility of game-changing revenue increases, but we're concerned about the many, many mandates that are proposed that could wipe out those increases. We won't know the true impact until the session is over. Our situation now is (X), and we're closely monitoring the impacts in the hopes that "historic" investment in public education is actually a positive for our school district.


“You just got a big increase, why should you increase taxes?”

Too often, public schools react to situations when they should be proactive (it often happened to me as a metro area communications director). Whether you have a referendum on the agenda in 2023 or not, don’t let politicians define your situation. Be proactive. Get your message out now.


Jeff Dehler, APR is President of DehlerPR, a consulting firm that seeks to improve communities through exceptional public relations, marketing, and strategic counsel

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