Thursday, December 13, 2012

Superintendent presents 2013-2014 School Budget

Superintendent Patricia Charles presented her 2013-2014 budget to the Board of Education Tuesday evening, asking for increases in almost every part of the budget.  Five major price increases are driving the overall budget increase:
  1. Contractual increases in salaries (asking for 7% increase)
  2. Increased cost of benefits (assuming a 20% increase in costs)
  3. A need to purchase critical technology infrastructure & hardware (asking for 23% increase)
  4. State mandates for the new Common Core State Standards, professional development, assessments, and reform efforts 
  5. Tuition for out of district students (33% increase asked for - covers both special ed services and magnet school participation)
The combined sum of requested increases totals almost $8.5 million; however, there currently is no bottom line request for the new budget because of additional negotiations still underway with the City.  Superintendent Charles has a meeting next week with Mayor Dan Drew about the possibility of combining redundant services, and this may drastically change what the BOE budget looks like.  For example, the City and the BOE both maintain grounds-keeping personnel.  If this function could be assumed by the City for school grounds, the BOE would not have to spend this money.

Once the City and the Superintendent agree on what services can be combined, the Superintendent's budget can be finalized.  A bottom line budget number is expected at the January BOE meeting.

In the mean time, Dr. Charles has to deal with the current budget deficit for the 2012-2013 budget.  The BOE approved immediate cuts in the following areas:

Athletics trainer ($5000)
Activities ($20, 548)
21st Century After School ($15, 000)
Cell phone reduced ($3000)
1 custodian - unfilled position ($40, 000)
All City Arts Show cut back ($2000)
Adult Ed benefits ($40, 000)
BOE salary/benefits reduction ($2000)
Facility use (Hall House) ($9, 621)
Increase cafeteria prices ($15, 000)
Consultant fee reduction ($2, 500)
15% hold on supply funds ($142, 969)
long term sub ($31, 889)
city return of unexpended utility balance ($70, 381)
EAP RFP ($5, 400)

Total - $455,308

These immediate reductions really only cover approximately 1/2 the actual deficit amount.  As the school year continues, there are several unknowns that may exaggerate the deficit: winter weather, the out-placement of special ed students, unexpected facilities issues/repairs, state funding reductions, maternity leave, and magnet school participation.  Furthermore, approximately 75% of the budget is salaries and benefits, so any significant budgetary savings would have to include cutting teaching positions.

BOE member Sheila Daniels praised the Superintendent, thanking her for a thorough presentation that was eye-opening and daunting: "I think you presented a budget that will move us forward."

BOE Budget Committee member Ed McKeon thanked Dr. Charles for her hard work and analysis for savings, noting that he intended to personally support her budget requests.  "We have to work hard to make sure the budget is realistic, but we have been skating on thin ice for 5 years.  We have been working on budgets that have sent us backwards, and we can no longer accept budgets that push us backwards.  We will continue to see erosion to magnet schools."  McKeon went to on say that the "Public has to understand the position that the state put us in - without any proof in the pudding - that this problem is foisted upon BOEs without legislators addressing how to fund education system.  The poorest communities have the biggest problems and the wealthiest communities have no problems.  It is unacceptable for the governor to say he's cutting education and expecting us to do more.  Our schools can't perform at the level expected if resources are taken away."

Budget Chairman Ted Raczka seemed stunned at the proposed budget, and he raised several potential issues of concern:
  1. How could a new budget get put together if staff contracts had not yet been approved by the Common Council?
  2. Several of the budget object codes were not clear or transparent for Raczka to understand what the budgeted funds would be used for.
Raczka seemed to be the only BOE member who verbalized doubts about the proposed budget: "An 11% budget increase?  Almost 8 million dollars?  This is breathtaking given the realities in our community...this would be a fundamental change in how city funds everything.  The community can't afford that kind of budget increase unless other things are let go."

In contrast, BOE Chairman Dr. Gene Nocera commented, "we have a clear understanding of what the district needs, it took a considerable amount of time to present this, and our responsibility to present this in as clear a way as possible.  The next 30-60 days are critical to move the district forward."

Besides approving budget reductions, the BOE also acted to approve the 2013-14 School Calendar (yes, February break is included!) and it increased breakfast and lunch prices by $.15 and $.25 respectively.  The cafeteria price increase will begin January 2, 2013.  For more information, read Dr. Charles' letter to parents here. (click on the Cafeteria Menu Prices Increase as of January 1, 2013 link)

The next regular BOE meeting is Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at 7pm in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.


Anonymous said...

How do you submit a budget with no bottom line?

Anonymous said...

11%???? Are you kidding me?

Even if the city takes over maintenance, that will increase the city side of the budget. So bottom line for us taxpayers doesn't change.