Buffalo Public Schools are in the final stages of preparing a budget for next year to go to the School Board, possibly on Wednesday. For most recent years, it was a spending plan built around not enough money for too many needs, despite the best efforts of the school system. This year is much different.
With a prepared budget due before the end of April, the district is usually cutting at this time of year. This year, the budget plan reflects a biblical flood of new cash from a large state budget and various federal stimulus legislations.
It’s so much state money the school budget will be structurally balanced for the first time in six years.
"$90 million was our ask over three years. The adopted state budget includes $98 million over three years and $43 million in this year," said District CFO Geoffrey Pritchard. "Now what’s very interesting about this is that Foundation Aid in the actual budget legislation is traded to be fully funded over three years. This has never happened."
Stimulus funds add up to around $300 million. Washington requires detailed accounting of where the cash goes and that 20% go for reversing the educational effects on kids of the COVID lockdown.
"There’s what’s called a 20% learning loss set aside," Pritchard said. "So there’s certain things that have been legislatively outlined as helping remedy learning loss and, in large part, that’s things like ELT, summer, programs that are outside of the normal school year. It looks like a lot of those to be relative to learning loss."
The district will hold public hearings to help prepare a plan to spend it.
Pritchard warned the district has to be careful what it buys with the federal cash.
"It’s a lot of dollars and it’s for a few years, but it is something that will expire. So it has to be something that can expire. It has to be funding that can go away and not leave us with a giant fiscal cliff," he said. "And, again, the Foundation Aid fully funding, that will go a long way toward that."