Since December, when Dr. Santelises announced that the structural issues behind the district’s ongoing financial pressures had resulted in a projected $130 million gap in the budget for 2017-18, the City Schools community has come together to advocate for the additional revenue our schools need and our students deserve. On March 10, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Delegate Maggie McIntosh announced a plan that would provide $60 million in additional resources for the coming year—and, most important, $60 million in each of the subsequent two years, to help offset budget gaps while the state moves toward recommendations for a new education funding formula.

This good news came at the end of the window for school leaders to submit their individual school budgets, which were based on a worst-case scenario that assumed no additional funding would be provided. Now, as the funding proposal moves through the legislative process, the district’s finance staff is developing new scenarios for additional budget allocations that would allow schools to restore some of the cuts they made.

Why couldn’t schools wait to submit budgets that included the additional state and city funding?
With the additional funding, will schools have to start budget development all over again?
Will all the additional funding go to schools?
How will City Schools fill the remaining gap?
When will schools know how much money they’ll get back?
When do schools have to decide how they’ll spend the additional money?
What happens if the state and city provide less money—or more—than the district is anticipating?
What can school communities do to make sure the district gets what it needs?


Why couldn’t schools wait to submit budgets that included the additional state and city funding?

City Schools believes that individual school communities should have as much input on their budgets as possible, and that school leaders should hear from parents and other stakeholders before developing their budgets. That process takes time.

Once schools submit their individual budgets, the district goes through the complex process of finalizing them. With almost 200 individual schools and administrative departments, there are thousands of numbers to enter into budgeting systems, check and recheck; thousands of budget decisions that affect staffing in some way must be reviewed to ensure they follow district policy and guidance, union agreements, and state and federal law. All of this needs to happen before a “hard deadline” of early May, when the complete budget proposal is presented to the Board of School Commissioners for review prior to a vote. Then, the final, Board-approved budget must be presented to City Council before the new fiscal year begins.

That’s why school communities begin developing their budgets in mid-February—which, this year, meant that the work had to get started before the district knew whether additional funding would be provided. By the time the additional funding proposal was announced, almost all schools either had already submitted their budgets or were in the final stages of budget development.

With the additional funding, will schools have to start budget development all over again?

No. When school communities provide input on budget development, at least as much emphasis (and likely more) is put on identifying shared values and priorities as on balancing the dollars and cents. That initial work is critical in creating the foundation for school budgets, identifying how best to allocate available resources, and determining priorities for directing additional resources that become available. Because of this planning process, school leaders are now in a position to allocate additional funds toward priorities that have already been identified. This approach has provided time for meaningful community engagement in the budget development process and has ensured that we will meet our budgetary and staffing deadlines so that all schools will be ready for students on the first day of school in September.

Will all the additional funding go to schools?

We are committed to restoring as many dollars as possible to school budgets, but the specific amounts will depend on the final amount of funding provided, the level of commitment for subsequent years, and the district’s success in identifying resources to fill the remainder of the projected budget gap. Keep in mind that the funding plan still needs final approval, and while we are optimistic that will happen soon, it may be as late as April 10 (the last day of this year’s General Assembly) before we know the final outcome. Even if the plan is approved as proposed, the district will still have a $70 million gap to fill for next year—and will need to determine how best to manage potential gaps in future years, until a new state funding formula is in place.

All of this means that some funds may need to be used in other ways than reversing cuts at schools, in order to ensure that the district is in the best possible financial position in 2017-18 and can avoid deep cuts again in subsequent years. Again, staff is working hard to ensure that the maximum possible funding is directed to schools.

How will City Schools fill the remaining gap?

Approximately $30 million in savings generated from cuts and restrictions on spending and hiring at the district office will help close the projected gap. We are also continuing negotiations with our unions to identify potential savings through things like furloughs, changes to employee health insurance, or salary freezes.

When will schools know how much money they’ll get back?

Based on the best information available right now regarding the potential success of the funding plan and of union negotiations, district staff members are now preparing revised budget allocations and expect to provide them to school leaders no later than Friday, March 24. There will be two numbers given to each school, with restored funding at two different levels to acknowledge the current uncertainty regarding the potential for both additional revenue and expense savings. School leaders will be asked to provide revised budgets under each of these funding levels. Once the district’s final funding is known, school budgets will be set in alignment with that funding and with final expense levels.

When do schools have to decide how they’ll spend the additional money?

All school budgets must be finalized by April 7.

What happens if the state and city provide less money—or more—than the district is anticipating?

By providing school leaders with two scenarios for additional funding, we hope to minimize the need for any further adjustments and ensure that school communities can feel confident about planning for the upcoming school year. However, school budgets are always adjusted once the new school year is underway, based on final enrollment at each school. If necessary, these adjustments will take into account any changes between the final revenue we received and the amount we are currently projecting.

What can school communities do to make sure all schools get what they need?

Keep advocating! Not only are your voices needed in support of the additional funding plan for the next three years, but as the state moves forward in developing recommendations for a new funding formula, City Schools must ensure that our students and schools are positioned for success.

One thought on “2017-18 Budget Development Status

  1. Patricia W. Alston Reply

    Place all schools budget back at the administration level on North Ave. Assigned an accountant to each school to assist the prinicipals and school communities to make adjustment where needed. Placing the budget in the principal hand is an assumed task that they all know how to handel budgets.(principals) The principals need help, this is a task that they cannot do alone.

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