APS FY 14 Preliminary Budget – Budget Commission Makes Substantial Progress – Stalls on “Class Size” Issue

Yesterday, the Budget Commission met to review additional changes that were proposed over the weekend to the FY14 Preliminary Budget. The Administration proposed $2.5 million in new revenue related to the sale of certain school properties and also proposed a number of increases in spending and additional spending cuts. In summary, the new revenue number is $570.5 million, expenditures at $590.5 million and the use of the General Fund balance remains at $20.0 million.

The Administration is beginning to respond to the “class size” issue, but still has a ways to go before winning over approval from the Budget Committee. In addition, the Administration is finally beginning to provide justification for the increases or decreases in spending. The following are the major expenditure changes discussed:

  1. $1.0 million more in spending for an additional 13 to 14 EIP teachers.
  2. A $1.0 million reduction in the expenditures on Substitutes as a result of better monitoring how Substitutes are used in the schools.
  3. A $1.0 million increase for Media Paraprofessionals (this was an error in the original budgeting).
  4. Teacher furlough days reduced from 4 to 3, resulting in a $1.5 million increase in spending.
  5. The savings from Vacancy Management (essentially delay initial hiring for open positions or delay replacement of staff that resign during the year) has been increased by $2.5 million to $5.9 million. The deferred or delayed positions will only occur in Divisions outside of Direct Instruction.
  6. Additional savings in Custodial staff ($500 thousand), lower cost of implementing stronger security in the schools ($1.0 million) and reduced energy costs ($500 thousand).

A couple of the proposed changes were made to begin addressing the Budget Committee’s concerns regarding “class size”. However, it was clear that the Budget Committee Members were not satisfied that the Administration had gone far enough on resolving this issue and the meeting essentially ended at an impasse and a Preliminary Budget was not approved. The Committee requested that the Administration provide additional detail on the incremental cost of reducing the “class size waiver” from where it stands now (1-5 additional students over the State mandate).

Per CFO Burbridge, the cost of going to State mandated levels would be approximately $24.0 million. However, he also indicated that the incremental cost of reducing the “class size waiver” from 5 to 4 or 5 to 3 would be less than 20% or 40% of the $24 million as the reduction in the average class size would only affect Elementary and Middle Schools – High School staffing would not be affected. In the event the Board was to consider going below 3 incremental students per teacher, then the costs will increase towards $24 million as High School teacher staffing will increase.

As the final issue was not resolved, the Budget Committee will meet again next week to review the detailed “class size” cost information prior to passing a Preliminary Budget. It is also important to note that the Budget Committee requested that the Administration also prepare a proposal for expenditure cuts in areas other than Direct Instruction that would cover the increased spending for reducing class sizes.

It important to note that time is quickly running out and a Preliminary Budget must be passed by May 30 to meet the required deadlines.

In subsequent posts, I will write more about the possible resolutions to the “class size” discussion and also provide many answers to the questions I posed this past weekend.

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