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Schools Propose “Working” $396M Budget

by Melissa Bailey | Feb 22, 2013 2:23 pm

(6) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools

Melissa Bailey Photo 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.

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posted by: Brutus2011 on February 22, 2013  5:13pm

396 million dollars. I thought it was 100 million dollars less.

Wow.

We need an accounting of where every dollar is going.

Now.

posted by: Webblog1 on February 22, 2013  6:02pm

“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 first item of business in the preparation of next year’s education budget is for Clark to accurately present the current city contribution to the budget which is not $184,363,830, but rather, $174,219.000, a $1.2 MM increase over the 11/12 city budget, approved by the Board of Alders.
Therefore the actual increase Clark is asking from the city is closer to $10,100, 00, not 6.3M as stated above by Clark.

“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”.

We have yet to see the actual 12M in cuts that Clarke said he has made; matter of fact the BOE does not even report its monthly revenue and expenditures to the BOA. Here, we are relying on Clarke’s word alone, with no back up documentation.

For this year, Clarke is doubling down and planning a budget with a known $9MM “Hole”.
On top of this planned debt is the fact that the BOE ended the 11/12 budget owing the city’s general fund $3.5M, with no record of that being satisfied.

The question is:

Is there something wrong with this picture, or, are we all to be taken under by Clark’s Voodoo fuzzy math???

posted by: NHteacherguy on February 22, 2013  7:23pm

About the TIF (Teachers Incentive Fund), where is the money going? Are teachers seeing this money?  Are teachers rated as exemplary getting any part of this as has been stated? Or is it a typical NH money grab and shift money where central office deems fit.

posted by: Brutus2011 on February 22, 2013  7:28pm

To Alderman Elicker and Rep. Holder-Winfield:

Your first order of business is to dismantle the opaque operations of NHPS management.

It won’t be easy because there are those installed whose primary attribute is loyalty to the current system—and there will be many who will not want to lose their patronage jobs.

But you must change this culture of corruption for the fiscal health of our city and for the youth of our city.

Might I suggest warming to the task by watching the 1976 film “Network,” starring Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway.

You need to “Get mad as h*ll, and not take it anymore!”

posted by: fastdriver on February 23, 2013  12:04am

How about 55 fewer ADMINISTRATORS and 6 fewer TEACHERS? That would make more sense! We have an inordinate amount of schools in New Haven, so now you’re going to lay off teachers and aides! The big $$$$$ are all at the top and NOT in the trenches!

Change cannot come fast enough! I predict that there will be more people than just Mayo leaving!

posted by: RichTherrn on February 23, 2013  9:23am

References to an opaque budget, or worse, implications that certain positions are “corrupt” or “patronage” are confusing to me, as well as insulting.
Last year’s budget is at http://www.nhps.net/node/2658 . It lists all personnel, including teachers and administrators, their years of experience, degree, and salary. 
When there are new positions proposed, the job descriptions are posted, and ALL new hires for such and for teachers/administrators are voted on in public.
Every contract awarded is also discussed in public at Bd of Ed Curriculum or Admin/Finance meetings, and then again at the full Bd of Ed before being voted on in public.
All of these are recorded in Bd of Ed minutes, publicly available at nhps.net.
Whether or not people agree, there is an opportunity for public input, it is not “hidden”.
And I personally do not find continual disparaging characterizations of certain positions, especially dedicated education professionals, to be useful.

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