The City Council tonight got an update on the FY14 budget, and (not surprisingly) the Worcester Public Schools' budget came up.
The City Manager for the first time that I've ever heard explained how the foundation budget works. The only part he misses--and this matters later--is the bit about the state using a standard formula for calculating the city's ability to contribute.
I seriously have no idea where some of the numbers flying around last night came from. "City Contributes $16.5M above State's Min Contribution Formula" appeared on one slide.
There is nothing called the "state's min(imum) contribution formula," so I suppose it is possible that the city is above it. The state's actual foundation formula, however, is something that the city continues to fund at just under a million dollars UNDER the state minimum--a minimum, I remind you, which is regarded by just about everyone as being badly outdated, leading to a state average of funding schools at 15% ABOVE foundation.
(And I really have no idea where the $16.5 million comes from. At all.)
Transportation: to give the manager a bit of credit; he does manage to acknowledge that transportation in many cases is required by state and federal mandates...though comparing the increase to the gross national product is sort of weird. I'm going to say this again: READ THE WPS BUDGET. The increases are very straightforward, and our budget doesn't cite an increase without giving a reason.
Also, the WPS contract with Durham (there are two, actually; one for special ed and one for regular ed) are ones that are directly voted by the School Committee. So let's not pretend here: if you question our transportation costs, you aren't just questioning our transportation costs. You are questioning the competency of the Worcester School Committee.
While the bar graph comparing percent of tax levy going to schools is clever, this is a function of state calculation of ABILITY TO CONTRIBUTE. The state actually figures out what the city is ABLE to contribute. That is, naturally, going to vary by community, but it is based on a standard formula, which bases the calculation on the income of residents and the property values within the town.This chart thus is meaningless.
OPEB, again, is not recognized as net school spending. Is the Manager therefore saying that we should take an additional $3 million out of the classroom and put it into something which does not count towards net school spending?
Of course, we could take the $3 million a year the city gets from the work of the Worcester Public Schools in Medicaid reimbursement and put that into OPEB...
And just a reminder here that there will be a presentation on the (actual) Worcester Public Schools FY14 budget tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7 pm at Worcester Technical High School.