In a specially called meeting, the Atlanta Public School Board of Education unanimously passed a $685.6 million FY16 Budget. Over the course of the last several months, the Administration worked closely with the Board to establish spending priorities and ways to fund them. The close collaboration resulted in reaching an agreement that, for the first time in six years, all Board members supported.
As the AJC reports,
Nancy Meister, vice chairwoman of the board, attributed that to the work put into the document and a willingness from all sides to work together. “I’m proud of this work,” she said. “And I’ve told that to the community members who have asked me about it.
And while the budget establishes the $685.6 million expenditure authorization, some details are likely to change between now and the start of the fiscal year in July. Superintendent Carstarphen stated in her blog post,
APS will continue to fine-tune this budget as we finalize cluster programming needs, firm up staffing allocations, and develop more options for rethinking current resource allocations.
Let’s start at the top of the budget and work our way down.
Revenues are projected to be up $50.2 million or 11.8% over FY15. However, total available resources increased by only $28.0 million as the prior year included the use of $25.0 million of General Fund reserves. The current budget limits the use of General Fund reserves to $2.8 million.
The revenue projection also includes $14.0 million in payments owed to APS by the Beltline, but the timing of when this amount would be collected is in doubt due to a dispute between the City of Atlanta and APS regarding the actual amount due.
Overall, spending is up by $28.0 million as compared to FY15 and up $90.2 million or 15.1% as compared to FY14. The chart below presents the major spending components for the actual results in FY14, the amended budget for FY15 and the FY6 Approved Budget (click to enlarge). The Administration’s detailed presentation by department is here.
The following are some highlights of the changes in spending by major category:
College Prep – Spending in this category (regular instruction, arts, world languages and PE) is up $12.9 million as compared to FY15 and $19.3 million as compared to FY14. As part of the run-up to converting to a charter system operating model, the Administration allocated the increases in funding to “cluster flexibility” in which each school and cluster was provided a certain level of funding and then given the authority to allocate them to best meet their individual school needs. In addition, the increased funding included $5.0 million for cluster planning which can be used to expand existing programs (IB) or develop new educational programs for a cluster
Specialty Programs – This category includes Special Education, Remedial Education Programs, Gifted & Talented, Vocational Education and Alternative Education. In total, these programs saw a $2.6 million increase in FY16 and a $9.3 million increase over two years.
The entire FY16 increase was directed toward the Special Education programs that saw a $3.1 million increase in FY16 and a $6.4 million increase over two years. There has been a slight increase in students qualifying for Special Education services in FY15 and, based on the enrollment (with a one-year lag) the spending per qualifying student has increased from $21.7 thousand to $22.7 thousand in the General Fund.
In addition, the funding for the Remedial Education programs remained flat as compared to FY15, but has increased by $2.4 million over two years.
Student Services – Social Workers, Nurses, Psychologists, Counselors and Student Support Teams departments increased by $1.7 million in FY16 and $8.2 million over the last two years. The primary driver of the cost increase is related to the Student Support Teams implemented in FY15 and expanded with additional administrative resources in FY16.
In-School Administration – Expenditures for In-School Administration – principals, assistant principals, graduation coaches, registrars and school secretaries – came down by $3.8 million as compared to FY15. A total of 37.5 positions were cut as the “small schools” initiatives have been closed down. Included in the positions cut were 18 principles and academy leaders, six assistant prinicpals and 11 graduation coaches.
Operations & Maintenance – The Operations functions – with an $86.9 million budget – saw a $1.6 million decrease in FY16. Spending on maintenance and operations administration decreased by $600 thousand, utilities decreased by $500 thousand, custodial operations decreased by $734 thousand, and transportation decreased by $659 thousand. These decreased were offset by an $897 thousand increase in the Safety and Security departments
Central Office School Administration – This function increased by $600 thousand over FY16. The primary driver of the cost increase was the transfer of costs from the Special Revenue Fund to the General Fund for professional development over the course of the last two years. It is also clear from the many other increases and decreases in specific departments that the administration is making changes in this area and there may be more reallocation of resources from this function as time passes.
General & Administration – Expenditures budgeted for the General Administration functions – Board, Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Finance, Audit, Legal, Human Resources and Information Technology – decreased by $3.6 million or 6.5%. Nearly all the departments reduced their spending with Finance again leading the way with a $1.4 million reduction and IT with a $1.0 million reduction. In addition, there were some savings found in certain district-wide employee benefit accounts in this category.
Charter Schools – Charter school spending is up substantially over FY15 and FY14 due primarily to both increasing local property tax revenues and continued increases in enrollment. It is estimated that the FY16 enrollment in the charter schools will be approximately 16.2%.
As in all budgeting negotiations, there has to be compromise within the boundaries of limited resources. The Board and Administration worked hard to make the necessary compromises and reach a unanimous agreement on the next year’s budget. As such, there are a number of items that were identified as priorities by both the Board and the Administration that did not get funded. However, my sense is that additional adjustments are still to come and it is likely that additional unfunded priorities will find a place in the budget before it is complete.
I will follow-up on this post with more detail regarding specific departmental expenditures and departmental and functional staffing.