CPS budget picture is brightening just a bit

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Though they are still estimating a $700 million deficit, CPS officials
said Tuesday morning that several things on the horizon have the
potential to shrink the hole.

Though they are still estimating a $700 million deficit, CPS officials said Tuesday morning that several things on the horizon have the potential to shrink the hole.

Almost $100 million less of a deficit is certain, said Chief Financial Officer Diana Ferguson at the Finance and Audit Committee meeting. The district stands to get about $50 million from a surplus in a Tax Increment Finance district, which is tax money that was set aside to improve a specific area.

Also, district officials plan to carry over $46 million from EduJobs, a federal program passed this summer designed to prevent schools from having to lay off teachers. Kayleen Irizarry, who manages federal grants for CPS, says CPS used $58 million this fall to save about 812 jobs, and will have the rest left from the $104 million it was awarded.

Two other things could help. The economy could improve and therefore property tax revenue would be up, Ferguson said. And the state just passed an income tax hike and CPS officials hope schools will get more than level funding, which what they’ve currently budgeted for.

Next year’s budget quagmire is reminiscent of last year’s when district officials spent the Spring threatening to increase class sizes, layoff masses of teachers and pressuring the teacher’s union to forgo a promised 4 percent pay increase. In the end, the projected $1 billion deficit was whittled down by state pension reform that saved the district $400 million and other last minute measures, including EduJobs.

The increase of class sizes didn’t happen, but CPS did scale down. A Catalyst analysis of employee rosters shows that central office is about 23 percent smaller from July 2009 through November 2010. Meanwhile, about 1,652 school personal were laid off or about 5 percent of all school staff.

So far this year district officials have not publically announced their priorities, though word is that interim CEO Terry Mazany is in the process of setting them for the coming year.

Tuesday morning Ferguson told board members that the district is “on track” in terms of expenses and revenues for the current year. But that the district still has to use its line of credit to make up for money the state still owes it. Just in December, the state paid the district the almost quarter million owed from the 2009-2010 school year, but already for this year the state is in arrears more than $300 million.

Also at the Finance and Audit Committee, CPS Comptroller Daryl Okrzesik told the board that the external audit found no material weaknesses. However, the audit found the district had some problems with purchasing orders, including that bills were paid before invoices were submitted.

Board members told Okrzesik that they want him to follow up on the corrective action he put in place after the audit.

The Finance and Audit Committee was formed this past July and plans to meet quarterly. It has a sign up and time for public participation, but no one spoke at the meeting on Tuesday.

 

Budget Category

Jul-09

Nov-10

percent increase

Area Office

252

381

51

Central Office Dept

1626

1258

-23

Citywide Dept

3693

2696

-27

Facilities and Food Services
Operations

5038

4770

-5

School

35096

33439

-5

Grand Total

45705

42544