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District budget ok'd despite uncertainty




The School Reform Commission approved a budget for 2010-11 today that assumes $148 million in additional revenue from the state and federal government, allowing for the continuation and expansion of the District's Imagine 2014 strategic plan.

Chief Business Officer Michael Masch said that the growth in the budget is made possible by the governor's proposed increase in the state's basic education subsidy and a new federal funding stream know as stimulus school improvement grants, for which the District will have to submit grant requests.

Masch said, "The proposed 2010 budget is sound. It will control costs, it will help students, it is based on the best financial information we have at this time."

Masch recognized some major fiscal uncertainties facing the District, including whether the state legislature will approve the proposed increase in the state funding -- the District is counting on a $95 million boost -- and the anticipated end of two years of federal economic stimulus funds flowing to the District, totaling $250 million.

Commissioner David Girard-DiCarlo said he was casting his vote in favor of the budget "reluctantly," expressing concern about the uncertainty in the District's revenue situation. He cited reports that the state budget has a deficit in excess of $1 billion and a projection that the new governor may face a deficit as large as $7 billion next year. "In that kind of scenario, I don't know how we can anticipate that we're going to get more," he said.

Commissioner Johnny Irizarry abstained.

Masch said that in the event of a shortfall, the District had identified $50 million in possible administrative efficiencies that they would aim to achieve in 2010-11. If additional cuts are necessary, the District would look at scaling back its recent staff expansion, including teachers hired to reduce class size and additional counselors hired in middle and high schools.

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