APS FY15 budgeted expenditures in General Fund at historic highs – increased spending disproportionally focused on administrative functions

In last week’s Budget Committee meeting a statement was made that the currently proposed FY15 expenditures in the General Fund were simply getting the district back to spending pre-recession levels. In fact, as the red line in the graph below shows, the currently proposed expenditure level of $658 million is the highest in the last 11 years and is likely at historic highs. In fact, the proposed spending for FY15 is nearly $27 million higher than FY10 which appears to be the prior record setter. (see Note 1 for sources)

FY15 GF total spending 040714

Even if we remove the spending on charter schools and the pension liability (which does not benefit traditional school students), the spending is still at near historic highs, as shown by the blue line in the graph above.

Additionally, the average annual spending for the ten years prior to FY15 amounts to approximately $574 million or $84 million less than the amount currently proposed for FY15.

And now let’s look at what is happening to spending per traditional school student. First, below is a graph of the traditional student enrollment since 2009 (excludes charter school enrollment). As I have noted here before, traditional school enrollment is down nearly 7% since 2009 (see Note 2 for sources).

FY15 Trad Student Enrollment 040714

Given that traditional school enrollment is down and traditional school spending is up, as you would expect, as shown in the graph below, spending per traditional school student is way up and at historic highs (excludes pension liability payments).

FY15 Spending per Trad Student 040714

But, as always, there is more to the story. While total spending per traditional student is up at historic highs, as you can see in the graph below, spending per student on direct instruction is increasing, but nowhere near historic highs. In fact, the spending per student is down over $900 per student as compared to 2009.

FY15 Direct Inst per Student 040714

So, where is the money going? You guessed it – to administrative functions. When you include all school and general administrative functions, the current budget proposes to spend $2,579 per traditional school student. That is $342 higher than spent last year and well above the historic high in 2010 (see Note 3).

FY15 Admin Per Student Spend 040714

I raise these issues for three reasons. First to correct the record, second to place the expenditure request in historical context and third to point out that the current budget request is not simply getting back to traditional norms. In fact, the spending is at historic highs and well above the average. In addition, the increased spending continues to be disproportionately directed to administrative functions.

Given this context, does the suggestion that we get a balanced budget without the use of $25 million in General Fund reserves seem so undoable?

I don’t think so.


  1. Sources – Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY13 (see here – pp. 79-80), estimates of FY14 expenditures and the proposed FY15 budget.
  2. GA DOE enrollment data as of October for each year. Charter school and PK data has been deducted from data presented by GA DOE.
  3. In 2009, 2010 and 2011 APS spent a significant amount on one time “reform programs”. I have adjusted these amounts out of the total administrative spending for those years.

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7 Responses to APS FY15 budgeted expenditures in General Fund at historic highs – increased spending disproportionally focused on administrative functions

  1. Jarod Apperson says:

    I think this is one of your best posts Bob. It is striking to see us reach new highs for spending at a time when APS enrollment continues to decline.

  2. Beverly Fraud says:

    It would be interesting, even if it’s not entirely possible, to factor in how much additional costs, in terms of time and productively of teachers, is taken up by the “make work” paperwork requirements generated by members of the administrative bloat in order to justify their continued existence.

    Even if it can’t be quantified, there is a real cost there, one that ultimately affects the students.

    • I completely agree with you on this. And while I know you have a lot of questions regarding Carstarphen, the one very solid fact is that in both of her last two assignments she has trimmed back the administration significantly. Just that alone should reduce some of the “make work” paperwork. Additionally, in highly efficient organizations, the administration should be constantly looking for ways to eliminate non-core tasks (or at least automate them) that front line people have to perform to reduce the time (and excuses) spent away from their primary function. Let them teach!

  3. Beverly Fraud says:

    I do have some questions about her to be sure, but probably more questions about whether or not she will be FULLY vetted. She makes claims about not being all about the (standardized) test, but I think there needs to be a full accounting of the incident Joyce Murdock Feilke reported on. Sure it’s one small thing, but it looks like it did cause a big enough stink that it probably was put in front of her eyes. Question: Did her or her team fully and completely investigate, or did they do “damage control” (or both?)

    Also, since we are talking about her “educational outcomes” as a major selling point (to the point we are overlooking some possible concerns about management style) we need to see if those graduation gains are truly her doing, if we expect similar to be replicated in APS.If there is reason, sound reason, to believe they can be replicated, or even approximated, great!

    Again, she may very well stand up to the light of scrutiny in both cases, but the key to me is the APS board willing to shine the light? Remember sunlight is the best disinfectant as they say.

    And (since I keep going back to in) don’t forget teacher buy in. If she is as good as advertised when it comes to bloat that will certainly help.

    Put it this way: you want “buy in’ AND “win/win”?

    Let APS teachers read an AJC headline that says “Carstarphen cuts central office staff 18%. APS school board approves the cuts”

    Trust me, you WILL get buy in!

  4. Beverly Fraud says:

    And a quick PS to my last post. Something I’m sure ALL could agree on:

    Speaking of sunlight being the best disinfectant, the line graphs at the top of this post provide a shining-pun intended-example of such.

    So much so, I think it would be FANTASTIC to share these graphs with some of the “instructional support” folks in central office. They appear to the the PERFECT tools to teach data analysis for math teachers. I’m sure the central office folks could find the Common Core objectives that dovetail nicely with them, and I’m sure teachers would LOVE to use them as a teaching resource!

    • “Beverly Fraud” – I would like to send you some additional information, but the email address I have was rejected. Can you email me at stockwell@stockwellconsulting.com and I will pass the information to you directly. Also, please know that any communication we have, that is not in the public sphere, is strictly confidential (and this is the case with anyone I speak with including APS staff, parents or Board members) Thanks. Bob

  5. MIchelle Constantinides says:

    Great post! Great charts! When are we ever going to get resources into our schoolhouses!

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