Baltimore City Schools Faces $85M Budget Shortfall

On Wednesday, February 24, the Baltimore City Schools administration laid out the initial impact of the 2016-17 budget, and it’s not pretty: The bottom line is that the school system expects to be short about $85 million. Here’s why:

Revenue Down $28.5 Million

Declining enrollment and increased property wealth in Baltimore City – much of which does not provide general tax revenue to help fund our schools – means less money from the state and possibly less from the city itself.

Governor Hogan’s FY 2017 budget proposes a loss of $25.3 million in state education aid to City Schools. The school system seems to be budgeting based on a worst-case scenario to include a potential loss of $3.2 million from Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the City due to enrollment declines. While conservative budgeting may be a wise approach for the school system to take, the City has never reduced school funding based on an enrollment drop. They certainly shouldn’t consider it now. Given the increase in city wealth, our expectation is that rather than cut funds the city will add funds to City Schools – becoming part of the solution. For now, though, the school system is budgeting as if losses of state and city funding are real.

Expenses Up $56.4 Million

While we have less money and fewer students, expenses are still up:

  • Personnel costs are up $21 million, including $17 million just for health care.
  • City Schools’ portion of the 21st Century Schools investment (the $1 billion new City Schools construction program) requires an increase of $10 million this year, for a total of $30 million, as mandated by state law.
  • Facilities Maintenance funding is increasing by $3 million for FY2017. City Schools’ Comprehensive Maintenance Plan, which covers all schools in the district, requires an increase in maintenance funding by $3 million each year over the next six years.
  • Pension costs are up $7 million due to a shift in responsibility from the State to the school district.
  • Costs for students with disabilities will be up $8.6 million.
  • Required staffing in traditional schools (like principals) is up $6.8 million.

These increased costs add up to $56.4 million. Added to the $28.5 million in lower revenue, that’s about an $85 million shortfall for next year’s school system budget.

UPDATE: March 10, 2016

Advocates (including us!) went to Annapolis March 9 with the Baltimore Education Coalition to raise our voices for Baltimore City Schools. We learned that the Governor intended to submit a supplemental budget adding $12.7 million for education in Baltimore City to cover the loss of funding due to enrollment decline. Now it is up to our leaders in Baltimore City to make up the difference.