10:22 am
Thu December 19, 2013

City school deficits rise beyond projections

For years, supporters of Buffalo Public Schools have been predicting prospects would improve as student enrollment increased. Now, more students are registering, but budget deficits are rising.

Carl Paladino.
Credit WBFO News file photo

"This school system is not only dysfunctional, it's broke," said Carl Paladino, Buffalo School Board member.

Paladino called out district management Wednesday evening, during a special session,  over what he referred to as the "scary" nature of the financial report presented by CFO Barbara Smith.

Smith told the board Finance and Operations Committee that enrollment is up 1,200 and will rise even more next year.

Smith told the board the school system saved money when it took over Pinnacle Charter School after Albany closed the school at the last minute but a lot of teachers were hired to run it.

"We adopted a budget, like I said, that assumed we would have a deficit of $31.1-million. The additional $4.5 million comes from the edicts that came from State Education Department after the budget was adopted related to East High School and Lafayette High School," Smith explained.

"Additionally, when we have increased enrollment, we have additional staff that we hired. We have 150 teachers more than we budgeted for."

Smith told city school board members she is projecting a $48 million deficit for next year and after reserves are used to support this year's deficit there will be only $43 million in unallocated reserves.

Paladino said it's time to start cutting costs right now even before budget talks start for next year and he drew some support from other board members.