A few things of note right now:
- we entered this budget season without a structural deficit. That means that our projected increases in funding (due to enrollment and inflation) could meet our projected certain increases in costs. That's the first time that's happened since I've been on the committee--and since longer ago than that--and it's worth mentioning, because it implies that we're coming out of the worst of things.
- that, however, was before sequestration. Sequestration is projected to cut up to $2 million in grant funding from the Worcester Public Schools. That's the equivalent of 23 teaching positions. There's not much sign that the federal government is going to come to any sort of agreement in time for us to save what we need to save, and our grants fund programs that aren't really optional. For more on what that looks like, see my post from February here. I would say that this is my largest concern going into this budget.
- while the Governor's budget proposed expanded funding for preschool and increased funding for special ed, there's been no indication so far that those will pass the Legislature. While both sides appear to remain faithful to funding of Chapter 70, they all seem a lot more concerned with funding for communities that don't, under the foundation calculation, need the support, than with following through on fully funding the circuit breaker (special ed) or charter school reimbursement. That means that the highest need communities are the ones that lose.
- needs in Worcester continue to increase. You'll notice on page 11 of the administration's presentation from Thursday at we're projecting a need for 30 additional special education positions and 11 more ELL positions for next year. Even setting aside for a moment what we ought to do: those are needs that we are legally required to meet. Those have to be funded somehow.
- that's also all before we get into our losing tech support on our operating system this year, additional special education buses, new graduation requirements under MassCore...
What this means is we're going to need to do some internal reallocation: cut here to add there. I don't yet know what administration's recommendations are going to be on that (we'll know in a month or so), but that's what this budget is going to be about.
So: while we've been in worse spots, this isn't as great a budget season as it looked like a few months ago.
We'll know more later this week.