It appears to me that the Supt. is sending a message to the city in this years school budget. We expect more and will push for more next year so be ready.
When the Ed Reform Act was passed in 1993, Cities and towns had a separate fund that was State controlled which would reimburse communities up to 80% of Transportation cost, so transportation was NEVER included in the Chapt. 70 funding or Foundation Budget or for Net School spending requirements. However that fund stopped being allocated to by the Legislature and so city’s and towns no longer get reimbursed.
In the past 20 + years this city and most cities and towns that I have looked at have since 2003 (When the State STOPPED Reimbursement for Transportation) folded in the transportation cost has a direct part of the school budget and the school department pays . If you look at Lowell’s School budgets you will see that transportation hasn’t been broken out has a separate contribution (I looked at the past 3 years).
If you look at this year’s Budget Proposal you will see that Supt. Khelfaoui does indeed break out transportation and states very clearly that in his interpretation of the Law, the City is responsible for the transportation cost and makes it a point to not only break it out:
But clearly states on Page 10 of the Budget Narration: (Again Bold Mine) that he needs that $$ to balance the budget!
blockquote>The Superintendent’s Recommended FY2017 budget sustains the existing district programs and services provided in FY2016 and continues the expansion of the Rogers STEM Academy for students in grades Pre-K through 4 and (2) strands of 5th grade.
A general fund operating budget of $ 158.4 million to be reduced by the transportation costs of $7,819,660 is required to accomplish these initiatives. The transportation costs are paid by the Lowell Public Schools, however it is the responsibility of the City.This requires an additional amount of $7,819,660 to fundtransportation bringing the total budget to $158.4 million. This represents an increase of $4.1 million, or 2.66%, in FY2017 over that of the FY2016 funding levels.
At last night’s budget meeting the Supt. backed away from that , claiming it’s just basically a mistake, a double entry, a combination of two separate letters that were combined and repeated. nothing to see here.
Or is there?
A couple of places in the 1993 Education reform Act seem to support the School Supt’s view that the City is required to pay for transportation (Bold Mine)
“Net school spending”, the total amount spent for the support of public education, including teacher salary deferrals and tuition payments for children residing in the district who attend a school in another district or other approved facility, determined without regard to whether such amounts are regularly charged to school or non-school accounts by the municipality for accounting purposes; provided, however, that net school spending shall not include any spending for long term debt service, and shall not include spending for school lunches, or student transportation
Section 6. In addition to amounts appropriated for long-term debt service, school lunches, adult education, student transportation, and tuition revenue, each municipality in the commonwealth shall annually appropriate for the support of public schools in the municipality and in any regional school district to which the municipality belongs an amount equal to not less than the sum of the minimum required local contribution, federal impact aid, and all state school aid and grants for education but not including equity aid, for the fiscal year. Based on the amounts specified in section twelve, the allotments described in section thirteen, and the definitions and other provisions in this chapter, the commissioner shall estimate and report such amounts to each municipality and regional school district as early as possible, but no later than March first for the following fiscal year. The commissioner shall file with the house and senate committees on ways and means, not less than thirty days before said reports are transmitted to each municipality and regional school district, copies or a document reporting all of the information contained in said reports. Notwithstanding the terms of any regional school district agreements to the contrary, no new regional school district shall be required to submit a budget to its member municipalities before receiving the estimate by the commissioner concerning the amount of state school aid payable through the member municipalities to the regional school district for the following fiscal year.
I’m not sure how or why transportation was accounted for or broken out in the past and it doesn’t matter to me or apparently this Supt or CFO. Instead they seem to be sending the message we want what we feel is ours under the letter of the law !
The School dept and some committee members are also concerned about they consider the large chargebacks the City uses toward Net School spending. In Fiscal year 2017 the charge back amount appears to be around $24,793,130 while the cash contribution is $19.8 million almost $20,000,000
The School Committee and administration are looking to review that document and to verify that DESE has approved it or if they can challenge it and get it restructured to get more direct cash.
By breaking out the transportation cost, is the Supt. not only sending a message for next year but setting up an excuse if this budget, which is built on a lot of IF’s and MAYBE’s falls short and the School Dept has to come back mid-year looking for funding?