Funds tight in NHPS budget

Chief Operating Officer of the New Haven Board of Education Will Clark announced the 2013-’14 fiscal year budget for the city’s schools Monday.
Chief Operating Officer of the New Haven Board of Education Will Clark announced the 2013-’14 fiscal year budget for the city’s schools Monday. Photo by Diana Li.

Administrators of the New Haven public school system presented their proposed budget for the 2013-’14 fiscal year to the Board of Education on Monday night.

Will Clark, the chief operating officer of the New Haven Board of Education, introduced the $184 million draft budget, which requests a 3.5 percent increase in operating funds. Clark explained that within the budget, the NHPS is requesting $3 million from the city to offset lost grant revenue and cover additional transportation and salary costs. This $3 million, together with $3.3 million in state funding and $9.4 million worth of cuts, create a balanced school system budget, NHPS administrators said.

“We are very proud and confident in the work we’ve done to manage the costs and expenses of the Board of Education and to seek additional sources of revenue and resources in order to be as self-sustaining and self-sufficient as possible,” said Clark, who called the budget a “working document.”

Clark said that the NHPS is pursuing new sources of grant funding in light of losing some of its former grant-based revenue. He explained that even though it has found some new grants, the net change in grant income is still negative.

On top of decreasing revenue from grants, the NHPS has to deal with increasing costs in personnel salaries and special education transportation.

Members of the Board of Education questioned cuts proposed in the draft budget at the Monday meeting.

Alex Johnston, a board member, raised concerns over a proposed $1 million cut in school equipment funding. Clark explained that grant money will still cover some school equipment, mitigating the impact of those cuts, and that the NHPS is also finding creative ways to make greater use of the existing equipment while coordinating efforts to share equipment among other schools.

Elizabeth Torres, also a member of the board, asked Clark why the NHPS cut $55,000 and $4,500 from both parent engagement and communications, respectively. In response to Torres, Clark explained that in designing the budget, his team had to weigh different cuts.

“One can make an argument about just about every line, and I’d agree with all of them,” Clark said. “Frankly, every line needs more money.”

Clark also added that there is flexibility built into the budget, and that if the NHPS is under budget in one area, it can use the extra money to supplement different programs or initiatives — for example, if the school system has extra money from payments to part-time staff, the NHPS can use that money for more parent engagement.

Clark explained that the budget process is ongoing and constantly accounting for new developments, and when board member Susan Samuels asked whether the budget considered that some funds may fall through, Clark said there are clear contingency plans.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. — who also serves on the Board of Education and called the proposed budget document “far superior” to those of the past — said that the NHPS budget will also be impacted by the final Connecticut state and New Haven city budgets. Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget would increase education funding for New Haven schools by $3.3 million, but NHPS will face difficult decisions about cuts, nonetheless.

Reginald Mayo, the current superintendent of NHPS, suggested that the board should start looking at certain school positions early and assess whether or not they can be cut.

“This budget will be a balancing act from day one. Even with the requested increase from the city, New Haven Public Schools will be forced to make difficult decisions about where to make cuts that will have the least impact on services for our students,” Mayo said in a press release.

DeStefano’s budget is due to the Board of Aldermen this coming Friday.

 

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