Friday, May 13, 2016

Puzzling out the City of Worcester FY17 budget

The news that the FY17 City of Worcester budget would make up all remaining ground on net school spending to the Worcester Public Schools has been something I've been puzzling over this past week. When we last left this particular item, we were looking at a budget that hit the yearly requirement, but didn't make up the backlog, which coming out of FY15 was $2.3M. Now the City Manager's memo says this:
$4.3M of that increase [in total budget spending, of $14M] is allocated to the Worcester Public Schools, based on state funding that increased by $3.8M 
From the city's budget, that looks like this:

And then goes on to say:
The State’s required minimum for the public schools would have allowed the City to reduce funding for education by $670,000. 
The above puts the city's spending on schools at just $500,000 over last year. As the Manager mentions, because the city's municipal wealth multiplier actually was negative for this calculation, the city's required spending could have been less than last year.
Thus, the first $670,000 is an amount the city could have cut the schools but didn't.
Given, of course, that the vast majority of municipalities are funding the schools at well over the minimum, the city's choosing not to cut the schools budget from last year is something I, anyway, have a tough time feeling particularly excited about.
Then there is the additional $500,000 (maybe there's rounding in the numbers to bring it up to the $630,000 the Manager mentions) over last year's budget.
That gets us to $1.1M or so over what the state said the city had to spend.
That would mean in FY17, the schools are being funded at 0.28% over the minimum required.

Now, just to put this into perspective, here's the statewide numbers on funding of schools over time:

Yes, the bottom right corner is the statewide average in school funding OVER the minimum for FY16.
Because of the vast gaping hole of the outdated foundation formula, statewide, cities and towns ON AVERAGE are spending 1/5 more than required on schools.
And Worcester's budget is funding at 0.28% over what is required.

In any case, that gets us to what's going on with FY17. What happened in FY16 to make the changes from the last time we saw where we were on NSS?
Let's add this to the list of outstanding questions on the FY17 WPS budget, but here's where I'm going to check: the municipal charges.
There aren't a whole lot of things that change in municipal allocation once the budget is passed. One is charter charges and the other is what the city is charging for municipal services.
And there was at least one change that went through after the budget did last year.

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