It isn’t clear whether the city’s likely refusal to fund half the Board of Education’s requested budget increase will force school officials to cut programs or staff.
The city’s Board of Finance is eyeing a budget proposal that would slice almost $2 million from the $104 million spending plan sought by educators.
School leaders have said that anything less than the nearly $4 million in additional funding they needed for a “go forward” budget that simply maintained the status quo would lead to layoffs and program reductions.
But it may turn out better than officials initially expected.
Tom O’Brien, the school board member who heads its budget subcommittee, said it is too early to say what the impact of the sliced request will be.
O’Brien said that health care costs for employees – a big ticket item in the personnel heavy school system – may be less than initially feared. That could make a major difference.
In addition, O’Brien said Monday, the millions in federal stimulus money earmarked for education may help cushion the budget blow.
School Superintendent Philip Streifer has said that the red tape attached to the federal cash appeared to make it unusable to fill most of the holes in the budget. In many cases, the federal money could only be used for new services, he said.
But O’Brien said that it isn’t yet clear what the final rules for its use will be. With luck, it may help cushion the blow from City Hall’s reluctance to shell out more, he said.
City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said that city government can’t come up with enough money year after year to fill the gaps left by frozen state aid.
He said the school budget has a structural problem in that it rises 4 or 5 percent every year, a level that would require millions of additional dollars annually.
Klocko said the schools are seeking money at a faster rate than revenues are going up, opening up a problem that is unsolvable at the local level.
“We cannot sustain that expenditure growth compared to the revenue growth,” Klocko said.
The only options are to hold back the spending growth somehow or to find new sources of revenue.
“It’s not about the children,” Klocko said. “It’s about the revenue.”
“It’s finally coming to a head,” the comptroller added.
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