January 7 — 9:34 am, 2011

When will cuts start to hit? Still unclear

With some projecting an unprecedented budget deficit approaching $500 million for next year (2011-12), immediate cuts effective this school year would be one obvious strategy for mitigating this crisis. The longer the District waits to make cuts, the deeper those cuts have to go.

But District statements on the subject of how soon cuts might take place have been less than specific. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said in December that she would be consulting with the School Reform Commission on whether to make current year cuts. Media reports say that District officials are meeting on the crisis Friday, but reporting has focused mostly on the scope of cuts for next year.

Spokesperson Elizabeth Childs this week did appear to confirm the possibility of cuts this school year:

"The School District of Philadelphia is exploring multiple options to soften the impact of a budget shortfall.  District leadership is considering ways to reduce current spending while not adversely affecting critical educational programs. The District is committed to maintaining a balanced budget and will not spend more than it has, but we are determined to go further by lowering costs and improving the efficiency of our operations whenever possible."

Childs said the SRC is scheduled to hear a second quarter financial report at its regularly scheduled meeting on January 19.

The administration and SRC have come under criticism for months of inaction in the face of the crisis, including a current year budget that spends down the $40 million fund balance that was on hand as of June 30, given that it was no secret that a quarter billion dollars in stimulus funding would be disappearing next year.

the notebook

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