Buffalo Public Schools projecting $32M deficit, despite increased aid

Apr 20, 2017

Buffalo Public Schools are looking at a budget for next year with a lot more spending than revenue. This comes as the schools are expecting an increase in aid.

CFO Geoff Pritchard presented the varying trends to the Buffalo School Board Wednesday night, a month away from the scheduled budget adoption. Pritchard said Albany put up more money and raised the payments for charter schools by the district, while the new teachers contract also raises costs.

He said that means the board will be dipping into its piggy bank - reserves - again to balance the budget. Pritchard said most of the usual cost drivers continue to push up costs.

"Revenues have increased $28.7 million. That's about 3.4% over the prior year budget to $871.7 million," Pritchard said. "Nearly all of that is state aid and that's a mixture of foundation aid and then other formula-based aids. Expenditures are up $51 million."

Pritchard said the new teachers contract raises costs $41 million and larger payments for charter schools will cost more than $14 million. However, use of $22 million from the reserves will cut the planned deficit to $10 million and there is hope that finding cost savings will eliminate that $10 million.

Protestors disrupted the Buffalo School Board meeting briefly as they called for the ouster of Carl Paladino from the board.
Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

Park District Board Member Carl Paladino said that is an awful fiscal plan and blamed the board majority for approving the Buffalo Teachers Federation contract.

"Every nickel of unrestricted reserves is gone at the end of four years," Paladino said. "Every program is at risk, reducing class sizes, the New Education Bargain, all that stuff is at risk with any unknown entering the picture and we get a lot of unknowns."

Protestors again stalled the board meeting, in their push to get rid of Paladino. He faces a June 22 hearing by New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia on a request from the board majority to remove him for racially-charged comments about former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama and claims he was leaking material from executive sessions.

The protestors were far more limited in numbers than in the past and were pushed out the door much faster by security.

When Paladino blasted the fiscal plan, BPS Superintendent Kriner Cash said the characterization  was not accurate.

"We're gonna be broke or that this is a four-year plan, it has changed," Cash said. "We've never really had a four-year plan. I agree with you on that, not yet. We have to get these things settled so that we can then work on what the four-year plan actually will look like and how we will close this deficit."

The School Board has to deliver a four-year plan to the city control board next week. Pritchard said that will happen, but within weeks it will be changed as the district continues its financial planning.

The proposed budget continues implementation of the superintendent's New Education Bargain and includes more than 50 additional teachers to make it work.