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Federal jobs bill averts needs for cuts

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The District's budget is still balanced despite recent state funding cutbacks, Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch told the SRC Wednesday - mostly thanks to the August adoption of a federal education jobs bill that will send $98 million to Philadelphia.

The $10 billion federal bill provides money "for one purpose and one purpose only - to create or retain education jobs," Masch explained. The funds can be expended between now and September 2012.

Masch said he expected to use half of the money - $49 million - to bring the budget into balance for the current school year and the other half next year. This is enough funding each year to protect more than 500 teacher jobs, he said.

Contingency plans had been drawn up for possible service and job cuts, Masch told the Notebook Monday at a presentation about the jobs legislation. As a result of tough budget negotiations in Harrisburg this summer, cutbacks in anticipated state aid this summer totaled $55 million.

If not for the federal jobs bill, "we would have had to cut - there was no cushion," he said. The $49 million offsets nearly all of the lost state funding.

Explaining the legislation at a Monday press conference at the School District, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said, "The last thing we need is job loss caused by inaction in Washington. This legislation gives us a chance to avert that kind of impact" from funding shortages facing states and districts.

The cloud that hangs over the timely arrival of these funds is that the District is balancing its budget with yet one more chunk of non-recurring federal funds. The current year's budget now includes more than $300 million in federal stimulus funds that will go away, most of them ending this year. That represents 10 percent of the District's budget.

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Paul Socolar

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Paul is the Notebook's former editor and publisher and also one of its founders in 1994.

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