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City Schools Unveil Fiscal 2015 Budget

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Baltimore City School Commissioners received a $1.3 billion budget proposal from school officials at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2015 is an increase of nearly $18 million over this year’s. Although students and teachers had worried earlier that a $31 million gap between revenue and expenses would lead to layoffs and program cuts, school officials now say that will probably not happen. “During the initial budget planning, the gap between the items we’d identified that we wanted to pursue and available funds was $31 million,” said district spokesperson Anne Fullerton.

But Fullerton said that the balanced budget presented to the school board is in line with the current budget. She added that the funds they hope to receive from state, city and other sources will be sufficient to pay for any increased costs in 2015, with the main ones being rising salaries and health insurance.

Funding from the state, the largest revenue source that pays for two-thirds of the school district’s expenses, is expected to increase by nearly $7 million. However, city funding, the number two source, will decrease by $3 million.

What also hurt the school district’s revenue significantly is that federal stimulus money and other federal grants, such as Race to the Top, are ending this year. To make up for those lost dollars, school officials want to use nearly $28 million of the district’s $105 million rainy day fund, something some board members are hesitant to do.

Even with an austere budget, some additional staff positions are being added for some departments. The chief of staff’s office would get five additional professional employees, seven positions are proposed for the district’s office of achievement and accountability and the human capital office, which works to attract and retain quality employees, would increase from 42 staff members to 48.

Money for the school district’s ambitious school construction plan is included in proposed 2015 budget as well. Officials expect to receive $28 million from the state to build new schools and $17 million from the city for construction, renovations and modernization of schools.

After a May 19 public hearing, the board is expected to vote on the budget May 27, with the next step being approval by city council.