Schools Eye $10M City Budget Increase

Christopher Peak PhotoThe Board of Education will likely request a $10 million dollar budget increase from the city —  a bump that reflects the challenge of maintaining current services with diminished revenue.

Reeling from cuts in state funding and the expiration of federal grants, the school system is projecting it will need $207 million in its general fund next year. That figure reflects a $19.3 million increase, 10 percent higher than last year. Central office staff are hoping the city will come up with half, while they trim the rest in personnel expenses.

Will Clark, the district’s chief operating officer, offered that info at Monday night’s Board of Education (BOE) Finance & Operations Committee (F&O) meeting at 54 Meadow St.

“We basically need to find cost reductions or more revenue,” he said.

The school system gets most of its operational funds from the state, but it relies on city taxpayers to make up the difference. Last year, the state sent $148 million in aid, and the city kicked in $40 million. (The alders argue that they also pay for in-kind support with nurses, crossing guards, police and other routine services, like payroll or procurement.) But that was less than the Board of Education said it needed for basic operations. The alders knocked down a requested $8 million hike, and they sequestered part of what they did give, despite a mayoral veto.

Those restrictions were part of a long tug-of-war over who controls school finances. Unlike with other city departments, the alders get only one chance each year to vote up or down on the entire education allotment, with no line-item authority. The Board of Education, a state-chartered entity, crafts the detailed budget on its own.

Now the Board of Education faces an uphill battle to get its books in order. The school system needs to balance this year’s budget, which is currently $7.9 million in the red, over the next five months. Then it needs to secure more than twice as much money for next year.

If the cash-strapped city can’t pay its share, the district will have to scrounge up whatever money it can and cut the rest, Clark said. That could mean an end to programs that have been sustained by grants, if board members give the go-ahead.

The district is entering a rough patch largely due to the loss of revenue from Hartford and Washington, according to Clark.

In the state legislature, with some leverage from a (recently overturned) court challenge about how schools get funded, New Haven’s legislative delegation was able to preserve the largest chunk of money for next year. The state Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, which attempts to make up the difference between the cost of instruction and local governments’ abilities to pay themselves, will stay even for the Elm City, while other towns took a 5 percent cut. But even flat funding puts the district behind with inflation, Clark pointed out.

Other line items in the state budget continue to shrink. Just last week, Clark said, he found out that funds for magnet schools are going down by as much as 7.5 percent, pending an enrollment audit. Other cuts could be on the way to special education reimbursements and school turnaround grants.

A major federal award, the five-year, $53.4 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant, also ran out this year. That grant paid some salaries that now must be moved over to the general fund, and it offered stipends for extra work the district must now do without. In total, those personnel costs are expected to add $3 million to the operational budget next year.

Those changes are occurring as the district’s other costs continue to rise. Special education students’ needs, particularly tuition to external providers mandated by their plan, is skyrocketing, up at least another $3 million next year. And inflation is sending the price of transportation and utilities up $2 million too.

To offset the deficit this year, Clark said, the district is already halting all non-essential hiring without an available funding source and a demonstrated need, deferring facilities work except for health and safety needs, switching over to LED lights to save on utilities, and maximizing the dwindling grant funds.

Up ahead next year, Clark went on, the district will consolidate programs ($2.75 million), right-size instructional staff to focus on core academics ($2.5 million), reduce non-instructional staff ($500,000), continue reducing electricity costs ($250,000) and maximize magnet enrollment ($1 million). The district might also look for other sustainable revenue sources, ask the union for concessions and further consolidate the district’s offerings.

Clark said he hopes local taxpayers will be able to cover the other half of what they need.

Darnell Goldson, the board’s newly elected president, asked if City Hall would be surprised by the $10 million figure. “Uh, no,” Clark said, after a moment’s hesitation. “But they’re not suggesting that number, to be fair. I’ve said it; they have not said it back to me.”

Goldson thanked him for the preliminary staff report, and added that he wanted to hear more from constituents about whether the numbers reflected their priorities. With a budget due at month’s end, he said, the draft was being presented pretty late.

“Why don’t we get [a budget report] on a monthly basis?” he asked.

Clark said he’s discussing plans with Carol Birks, the new superintendent who starts the job next month, and city officials to provide more regular updates. “We’re discussing the best format,” he said.

“Anything is better than now. I just want to see some numbers.” Goldson replied. “Since I’ve been on the board, the lack of financial planning puts us behind the eight ball. We don’t find out until a week before we approve the next budget. We really have to tighten that up.”

The board is expected to discuss the budget at its regular meeting next Monday, then vote on a draft version two weeks later. That goes over to the mayor’s office, where the school district’s numbers will be wrapped into all municipal expenditures and sent to alders as a package for a final vote.

Tags: , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry

Comments

posted by: Noteworthy on February 6, 2018  4:56pm

At What Point Do the Smart People Show Up Notes:

1. For more than 10 years, citizens have pointed out budget bloat in the NHPS. It has been ignored.

2. Not only does our general fund cover their expenses, they’ve been co-mingled with our expenses for years to hide the real school cost.

3. No small part of the budget is dedicated to all the personnel the NHPS has to have to lead and staff all those new schools - more schools than anybody in the State of Connecticut. Every new school comes with a principal, assistant, support staff, janitors and teachers, utilities, insurance policies, maintenance and mountains of debt. We have begged them to quit building new schools. We have been ignored.

4. The neighborhood schools were destroyed in a financial bid to get more money from the state. They were all converted to magnet schools. Chasing the state money always ends badly.

When will the schools stop doing the political thing and get smart with the money? It’s a cesspool of friends and family and related third cousins. Stop using it as an employment agency to prop up the middle class and start using it as an educational system only. Then start consolidating schools like Hartford and other communities, quit advertising for more students and pray the cuts from the state don’t go too deep.

posted by: 1644 on February 6, 2018  6:01pm

I believe Birks spoke of school closures when she was hired,  Sure, there is lots of waste and nepotism in the BoE, but the biggest variance between NHPS and most other systems is the vast number of schools. NHPS used to have two high school, Cross and Hillhouse.  Now, it has ten.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 6, 2018  6:41pm

Noteworthy,

You know as well as I do that Smart People show up all the time.  But, if an institution is bent on doing unsmart things, the smart people will always be encouraged to exist the scene.

posted by: TimeforChangeInNewHaven on February 6, 2018  6:51pm

I repeat
Citizens of New Haven
look at ALL school budgets one by one
Look at the nepotism
Check qualifications and titles of staff and certifications

posted by: Noteworthy on February 6, 2018  8:57pm

To prove my point, the NHPS are advertising on WTNH for more students. Tonight. They do it every year. Grrrrrr

posted by: Brutus2011 on February 7, 2018  1:27am

I’ve been accused of being scurrilous, nihilistic, and just wanting to destroy the institution of NHPS.

Cow-pucky—a Trumkkkp-ian tactic. Accuse others of what you yourself are doing.

Our schools have been, and are, run by those who care more for lining their pockets, and their seats at Knickerbockers, than for tightening up the ship and really seeing to our kids.

This is not a public jobs program for six-figure incomes.

Education is a public sector endeavor that requires doing more and taking less and if you want to make money; go try your luck in the private sector.

posted by: T-ski1417 on February 7, 2018  3:55am

New Haven needs to start closing some schools.

posted by: TimeforChangeInNewHaven on February 7, 2018  10:31am

Folks at knickerbockers got NHPS jobs too! Full time and part time j-o-b that offer overtime! Lining their pockets!

Budgets were developed for part time staff and full time staff with no qualifications… is this FOI?

CItizen check where your money is going! Get the answer to why kids in schools have zero resources!  make the school spending and budget accessible to the public!

posted by: TimeforChangeInNewHaven on February 7, 2018  10:47am

All these schools to uphold internal politics cost you in buses and special education and teachers and overtime and utilities ... at the end .. students don’t truly get a school choice with these schools and it’s a marketing scheme to attract certain types of students

posted by: Nadine H on February 7, 2018  11:21am

Agree with a lot of the comments made here. We as tax paying residents in the city need to step up and demand accountability from our school board and school system.

Whether you have a child in the school system or not (my daughter graduated from NHPS 10 years ago), my tax dollars and yours are still going to fund this dysfunctional, bloated system and how Mr. Clark can have the audacity to ask for 10 MILLION MORE DOLLARS is absolutely mind-blowing to me!

An honest look at staff, salaries, and contracts inside 54 Meadow Street would find a huge chunk of money and I’m glad to hear that the board chair is asking for a monthly accounting of what’s going on with the school budget. Why this hasn’t already been a normal practice I have no idea, but I hope it’s a start in making the entire NHPS system a LOT more accountable to the residents who help fund it and the children it purports to serve.

posted by: JCFremont on February 7, 2018  2:47pm

@Brutus Your Cow-pucky is one thing that both political parties can agree to be bipartisan. Yes, as noteworthy mentions the BOE and NHPS is not a 1950’s General Motors assembly job. The State of Connecticut has been trying to replace manufacturing, insurance and service jobs with state jobs and as history has seen it never works be it local or national. Meanwhile the state and its cities still believe the state is still in it’s glory years. As for New Haven’s great school building boom. We have schools in every neighborhood yet we bus kids all around town. Enough, all I hear about is the great strides success stories from “The Communities.” Well best way to show that is by returning schools to the communities as the local schools can run the schools and show group success rather than individual stories.

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on February 7, 2018  3:07pm

This is a joke, no?

GOOD THING WE’RE BUILDING MORE SCHOOLS!!!!

Close down the under performing schools and stop renting space that isn’t owned by the city.


This is a joke, no?

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on February 7, 2018  4:57pm

>> make the school spending and budget accessible to the public!

Please visit our Transparency website, NHPSAdvocates.org.  You will find past budget documents (all we could find anyway) under “Backup” and current spending requests under “Finance & Operations.” 

It looks like we might actually have to add a column for “Approved/Rejected/Tabled” if they’re going to put that rubber stamp away!

posted by: TimeforChangeInNewHaven on February 7, 2018  5:45pm

Close schools make sense! Oh and as far as transparency you don’t know the back conversations and deals happening before it’s on paper… depth of transparency

posted by: Bluegirl on February 8, 2018  11:55pm

I hope Dr. Birks hires a true CFO for NHPS that knows Math. I hope she gets rid of all the retirees being paid. I hope she makes all teachers go back into the classroom. I hope she she holds Directors and Supervisors accountable. I hope she gets rid of the dead weight at Central Office so NHPS does not continue having the same problems year after year. I hope she does not applaude people who continue to mess up at Central Office. NHPS needs a hardcore leader who will hold people accountable!!!

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on February 9, 2018  10:48am

“I hope Dr. Birks hires a true CFO for NHPS that knows Math.”

And who has no conflicts of interest or attachment to ideology.

posted by: Bluegirl on February 9, 2018  4:43pm

Jill_the_Pill

You are so right!