Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

School District approves $3.2 billion budget, takes aim at BRT

School CEO Arlene Ackerman Link: School budget approved; SRC hoping for state aid [Daily News]

School District approves $3.2 billion budget, takes aim at BRT

School CEO Arlene Ackerman

The spending plan relies on getting 52 percent of its revenue from the state, including $300 million which Gov. Rendell proposed and which was part of $1 billion in education funding statewide that the Republican-controlled state Senate cut from the version it passed earlier this month.

Rendell and leaders in the Democratic-controlled state House are working to restore the funding.

"I'm concerned that the state may not approve a budget that a district like Philadelphia so needs," commission member Heidi Ramirez said following the special budget meeting. "I continue to be so impressed with what our students do and accomplish with so limited resources, but I know they need a heck of a lot more."

Michael J. Masch, the district's chief business officer, said that it would be devastating to the district if the $300 million is not restored to the final state budget at the end of June.

In a May 6 document sent to state legislators from Philadelphia, Masch wrote that if the Senate budget bill passed, the district would have to cut academic programs and curb its five-year Imagine 2014 strategic plan.

Yesterday, he stepped back from that doomsday scenario. "We will wait and see what the Legislature does," he told reporters. "But asking what we'll do if we get less money might suggest that the level of funding that we're asking for is out of line."

Before approving the operating budget, the four commissioners voted to budget just over $1 million to cover three months of wages and benefits for 80 employees on the district's payroll who actually work for the city's Board of Revision of Taxes. The remaining $3.2 million in BRT funding was placed in a separate part of the budget for now.

The move, Masch said, was designed to give Mayor Nutter and City Council time to determine if BRT employees should be placed on the city's payroll or stay put.

Commission Chairman Robert Archie last week joined a chorus of parents and education activists in calling for the BRT workers to be moved to the city's payroll.

Parents have long complained that the BRT workers are not school employees and drain school finances, and that many got their jobs through political patronage. The district budget, which goes into effect in July, funds the hiring of 1,115 teachers, counselors and other school employees.

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