Fifty-five fewer teachers. Ten fewer classroom aides. Six fewer administrators.
That’s the optimistic scenario of next year’s schools budget.
Will Clark (pictured), chief operating officer for New Haven’s public school district, outlined that scenario Tuesday night at a school board meeting at 54 Meadow St. He presented a $396 million proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. School board members heard an overview of the budget but took no vote. They are set to receive the full budget document at the board’s next meeting, on Monday.
Clark’s budget assumes an extra $3 million from the city and another $3.3 million from the state. Even with that extra money, Clark said, the school district would have to make $9.4 million in cuts, including eliminating 55 teaching positions, 10 paraprofessional jobs, five clerical/security jobs, and six administrative positions. Clark said the district would plan to make those cuts through attrition, not through layoffs.
Mayor John DeStefano, who sits on the school board and appoints its members, urged his colleagues to see the budget as a “working document.” That’s because so much remains up in the air at the state Capitol.
Earlier this month, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed the most dramatic restructuring of municipal aid in decades. DeStefano joined statewide mayors in denouncing the plans, which he calculated will lose the city $13.8 million. State legislators, whose job it is to pass the state budget, have vowed to fight Malloy’s budget.
DeStefano plans to release his own budget proposal on Friday of next week. He cautioned that the city and school district may have to revise their budgets this summer, as the legislature is unlikely to resolve major issues before June.
The total schools budget Clark proposed, which includes outside grants, would fall slightly from $397.9 million to $396.1 million. That’s because some major grants, including the federal School Improvement Grant and the federal stimulus package, are drying up, Clark said. The total does include $8.7 million from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, part of a $53 million windfall New Haven received for developing educators. (The $397.9 figure represents the adjusted total for the current year’s budget, based on new grants that came in.)
Clark’s budget asks for a $6.3 million increase in the “general fund,” from $178,061,200 to $184,363,830. That $184 million figure is likely to get the most focus in the upcoming budget season. The number comprises city tax dollars, including those spent on medical benefits, debt service, pension costs and workers compensation, as well as the state Education Cost Sharing [ECS] grant, the largest pot of state money awarded to municipalities. The increase would come from two areas: An extra $3 million from the city and $3.3 million in extra ECS money.
Malloy offered New Haven an extra $3.3 million in ECS as part of extra funding to the 30 lowest-performing school districts in the state. However, DeStefano noted, Malloy is also shuffling money around: The governor proposed taking $4.8 million in PILOT money, which the city had relied on for its budget as a reimbursement for non-taxable state property, and giving that money to the schools. It’s unclear whether that money will be counted on the city side or schools side of the budget.
As he did last year, Clark proposed a budget that includes a multimillion-dollar hole. Last year, he outlined $12 million in cuts he would need to make to balance the books; he announced Tuesday the district is on target to meet that goal. This year, his proposal includes a $9.4 million hole and a draft plan for how to fill it. Framing the budget that way aims to emphasize the effort the school system is making to trim costs.
“We’re not asking for 3 million dollars in a vacuum,” Clark said of his request to the city. “We’re putting 9 million of our own up.”
Clark said he has outlined “thoughtful cuts” that “maintain core services” and preserve the city’s school reform drive in the face of scarce resources.
Among the biggest cost drivers are salaries, Clark said: part-time and full-time salaries are set to rise from $187.4 million to $190.3 million next year. The largest dollar increase is in teacher salaries, which would rise from $120.1 million to $121.0 million. The teachers contract, which provides an average 3 percent raise next year, was key to paving the way for the city’s school reform drive, Clark noted. Teachers agreed to be graded based on student performance, and to allow the district to overhaul failing schools with new work rules, in exchange for average 3 percent annual raises for four years.
Administrators will also see a 3 percent raise that reflects the same schedule as teachers’.
Teachers aides, who recently settled a new contract after three years without wage hikes, will see a 5 percent raise by July 1, costing an extra half-million dollars next fiscal year.
Unionized custodian salaries have dropped from about $8 million to about $4 million per year due to outsourcing, Clark noted.
Clark’s proposal would raise transportation funding by $1 million. Non-personnel items, such as equipment, textbooks, and “inventory supplies,” would drop by $2.5 million. Plant operation costs would stay flat. Debt service to fund the city’s school construction initiative would fall from $41.1 to $37.9 million, according to figures Clark provided.
This will be the third year in a row the school system is doing “site-based budgeting,” where the budget is broken down school-by-school. Those details will be available at next Monday’s meeting, Clark said.