Saturday, March 14, 2015

Where are we at with FY16?

as requested
We had our first update on FY16 from Mr. Allen at the March 5 meeting, but I haven't gotten back to do a summary. There's now an FY16 folder on the WPS website, so know that all of these presentations and eventually the full budget will appear there.

You'll remember that our foundation budget is based on how much it--at minimum--costs to educate the population of students we serve. So when you hear that the WPS foundation budget is going up, it's important to know why:
  • our total enrollment has (as of our October 1 count) increased 497 students, to a total enrollment of 25,191
  • Our English Language Learner population has increased by 834 students over last year.
  • Our low income student population has increased over by 697 students over last year 
That, along with an inflation rate of 1.5%, is why our foundation budget has gone up. The student population we serve has not only increased overall; it has increased in need. That will mean an increase in costs.

The projected general fund WPS foundation budget for FY16 is $317,796,009; that's a $13M increase over last year.

While the inflation rate for the state is 1.5% for FY16, there is no area of our budget that, at a level service level, is going up by only 1.5%. Projected increases:
  • salary and step increases 3.3%
  • health insurance 7.5%
  • out-of-district special education tuition 10.3%
  • transportation 6%
  • retirement 4.6%
  • utilities 5%
This, incidentally, is what we mean when we say that the inflation rate of the foundation budget are unrealistic: it does not reflect actual cost increases.

Were we to do just exactly the same things we're doing this year--same number of teachers, services, and so forth--we'd, with some cuts in federal grants, be looking at about a $2M shortfall this year.

However, remember above: we aren't serving the same number of kids, nor are we serving kids with the same needs. If you flip through Mr. Allen's presentation, you'll see the numbers, but the short version is that you can't have the same number of teachers with 500 more kids and expect reasonable class sizes and good course distribution, to say nothing of the ELL teachers we need.
Adding those needs together, and adding other things that our kids need--hello, adjustment counselors!--plus the level service increase is a total spending increase of $30M.

Short commentary from me here: and that's only doing things like adding ONE librarian for Elm Park. That's still not restoring librarians, increasing the student supply budget (surely I'm not the only one buying copier paper?), increasing the facilities maintenance budget for 50 buildings, or trying to backfill the grants that were cut under the midyear budget cuts. We're still at "what do we HAVE to do" not "what would we LIKE to do for our kids." /end rant

So if you take the total funding needs of $30M and you subtract the net revenue increase of $11M, you get a net shortfall of $19M.

The usual March cavats apply here: this does not mean $19M in cuts (as the above includes the increased needs); we will need to move money. We don't know what the state legislature will do. We haven't yet heard about federal grants. We also don't know that the city will only fund the schools at minimum.

However: recall, also that the Worcester Public Schools remain, for FY15, $3M under net school spending by the city. Unless the city keeps pace with transportation increases in their funding, that could jump to $4M next year.
Note as well that the city is seeing a jump in local aid as well, to the extent that the Mayor and Councilor Bergman are requesting a police and fire class next year (see item 11A).

This would be a good year to see an item that requested that the City Manager build full school funding into the FY16 budget.

Note that CPPAC meets at 7 on Wednesday at Chandler Magnet for a budget presentation. 

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