We finally got a little information about the upcoming School Budget.
If you listened to WCAP this morning (to be honest I did NOT) you heard the Mayor and the Supt. of Schools talking a little about the 2017/2018 School Budget and addressing Teddy’s comments that the Administration had to make an “emergency cut of $500,000” and that it appeared it would be in reflected in staffing School Library’s.
Someone texted me that this discussion was held and I went back and listened to the Radio Replay of both the Mayor and Supt.
Apparently even though the School Committee requested the budget for April 12th, it wasn’t ready and as late has last week the Administration was still looking at cutting another $500,000 to balance the budget.
We learned from the Supt. that Special Education out of district cost increased by $5,000,000 and that step increases in the past teacher contracts account for another $800,000 increase for the 2017/2018 school year.
The Supt. corrected Teddy in that it was just a cut not any emergency cut, just an additional budget cut required to balance the 2017/2018 budget. The Supt. stated the School dept. had to cut over $5,000,000 plus the $500,000 Teddy was talking about.
I guess the information that surprised me the most was when the Supt. stated he was projecting an increase in Chapt. 70 funding of approx. $5,000,000 but that due to “various increases” the “net cash” contribution from the City is NEGATIVE $3,000,000.
That’s a little different from what the City was saying, in the Manager’s letter to the School Supt. in February it states “Therefore, I am proposing $143,520,403 in Chapter 70 aid and $18,005,691 in direct cash contribution from the tax levy for a combined FY2018 School Department appropriation of $161,526,094. This represents a significant year-over-year increase of $3,080,862
So on the one hand the Manager says the Schools are getting an increase of $3,080,862, while the Supt. makes it sound like the City is negative $3,000,000.
So what’s the real situation? Depending on your viewpoint they are both correct.
What the Manager looks at it in a positive light, the Supt. looks at from a negative view. Here’s why…Charter School cost count towards the City’s Net School spending requirement but Charter school cost take away funds for the Lowell public schools operational budget. Transportation cost take cash away from the operational budget.
This year that Charter School assessment is $1.8 Million which the City funded by reducing the cash contribution the city assigns the School Dept.
In addition this morning we learned from the Mayor that Transportation cost have increased approx. $1.1 million dollars from $7,819,660 up to $8,900,000.
Those two items reflect an increase of close to $3,000,000 which comes directly out of the Cash contribution the city provides the school for their operations budget.
So while the city views it as an additional $3,000,000 spent on schools, the cost increase reduces the direct cash contribution usable for the Lowell Public School operational budget which makes the Supt. see it as a negative.
The fact is Charter School students are Lowell students and the transportation cost include transporting public, charter and private school students and special needs students including those who get education outside the district.
The money goes to Lowell students just not directly to the operational budget of the Lowell Public School System.
I’m not advocating that it is fair, I think charter schools take away from the public schools but the law is the law and the city has to follow it.
It also needs to be noted that Direct Cash is one of the 2 ways the City contributes to the School Budget in order to meet their NET School Spending requirements which include the cost of Charter Schools, retired employees insurance and other items.
The other is in “Chargebacks” for city services provided to the schools.
Transportation is separate and it is a city expense that is NOT part of NET School spending and this Supt. in his budget presentation subtracts the cost of transportation from the Cash contribution.
It looks like he’s saying the city owes that much but really it is probably the best way to show that the city does indeed pay for transportation since the city does NOT show that cost on the City side of the budget.
Regarding Chargebacks for service rendered by the City, it is important to know that the city and then Deputy Supt. of Schools Jay Lang agreed to the chargeback formula and DESE approved it LONG before Kevin Murphy was the City Manager and before Supt.Khelfaoui was here.
Here is the Charge back report up through 2015 so you have an idea of what is charged back by the city.
It is really no different than the Supt. charging a % of his Salary, the Asst. Supt. of Finance’s salary, HR Director’s salary and custodians salary to the food service account. The administration says that these 3 people and the custodians do work related to food service and their efforts should be charged to that account.
The city charges the schools for services rendered (Auditing, Treasury, MIS, Trash Collection, Police Officers in the Schools, Nurses) but instead of transferring cash and getting it back they basically take a credit and apply the cost to their Net School Spending requirement. Which under Manager Murphy they have exceeded over the past 3 years.
Mayor Kennedy stated that the School Committee would be receiving the budget at next Wednesday’s meeting so hopefully it will be put on-line Wednesday evening or Thursday morning for the public to be able to review.