By Denise Dick
City school-district finances should realize relative stability for the next few years because of reductions made by the district, and provisions in the state budget.
In fact, a projected 2017 deficit has been reduced by about $47 million.
But the district’s declining enrollment and high per- pupil cost continue to present challenges, according to a report from Treasurer James Reinhard presented at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting.
Appropriations for fiscal year 2014 total $86.6 million compared with fiscal year 2013 expenditures of $89.5 million.
The district’s per-pupil cost is more than $17,000 for both years, an amount that Reinhard said is high compared with even other urban school districts.
“That’s not necessarily bad,” he said. “We just have to make sure the dollars are being spent in the classroom.”
The district used to have more than 20,000 students, but over time that’s shrunk to about 5,300. The district has worked to right size itself, but the loss of more students drives up the per-pupil cost, he said.
Between this school year and last, the district closed three buildings and repurposed others and eliminated three administrator and 30 teacher positions to trim costs.
Although the district pays about $38 million from its general fund to charter or open-enrollment schools or to private schools through vouchers, that money doesn’t figure into the per- pupil calculation.
The current five-year projection shows the district remaining in the black until 2017, when it would be about $1 million. Previously, district officials forecast a $48 million deficit by that same year. Reinhard said that was before the reductions.
The district also expects to receive $81.5 million in state money in FY 2013 and $89 million in FY 2014, although some of that will go to open-enrollment and charter schools and for vouchers. Reinhard, though, wants to see the money before he counts on it.
“I still won’t feel comfortable until I get a check that has an amount on it,” he said.