Deficit expected in budget

Posted: March 29, 2013

DISTRICT OFFICIALS stressed "shared sacrifices" Thursday as they presented a preliminary budget for the coming fiscal year to the School Reform Commission - a plan with a $304 million deficit that officials expect to bridge by slashing district payroll and requesting additional funds from City Hall and Harrisburg.

The $2.66 billion budget proposal, approved by the four SRC members in attendance, seeks an additional $60 million from the city and $120 million more from the state.

The district also wants $133 million in "personnel contract negotiations" from union and nonunion employees, said district Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski, who presented the budget.

"What we're really attempting to do here moving forward is to fix the structural gap in budget," Stanski said earlier. "We believe that the . . . statement we proposed is essentially a shared sacrifice, meaning that we will be cutting expenditures through personnel, but then asking to essentially close that structural gap so that we have a balanced budget moving forward."

Stanski also highlighted some cost-saving measures that will help to narrow the budget gap: staff reductions at district headquarters through eliminating vacancies and attrition, an energy-performance initiative, a new transportation-routing system and cuts to district contracts.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he and his team are looking at every cost-cutting measure as long as it doesn't affect students' learning experience.

"We're trying not to impact schools anymore than they've been impacted already," Hite said earlier in the day. "That's why you hear a lot of the shared sacrifice around contract issues, around structures, around administration, because their schools cannot afford to lose anymore resources than they've already lost."

Still, the bad news didn't end with those proposed cuts. Stanski said the district would lose about $134 million in federal funding, about a 28 percent reduction. This would hit English language learning, free and reduced lunches, Head Start and other programs and impact "our most vulnerable and needy students," Stanski said.

The funding loss of grants is due to the so-called "sequester" of automatic cuts that occurred this month, the end of stimulus funds and expiration of other federal grants, Stanski said.

Hite said he has spoken to city officials. "They understand the dire situation that we find ourselves in," he said. "They want to be helpful. I'm sure they're going to work hard to determine the degree to which they can help and how that's done."

Mayor Nutter said he has and will continue to support education for Philadelphia's children.

"We will very seriously consider this new SRC request for more funds for public education in Philadelphia in the context of the overall city budget and tax rate," Nutter said Thursday.

City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez is not as optimistic as the mayor when it comes to securing the additional funding.

"I don't know if we can do it. We definitely have to consider it," she said.

- Staff writer Jan Ransom contributed to this report

On Twitter: @ReginaMedina


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