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)
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
- Sources – Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY13 (see here – pp. 79-80), estimates of FY14 expenditures and the proposed FY15 budget.
- GA DOE enrollment data as of October for each year. Charter school and PK data has been deducted from data presented by GA DOE.
- 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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