SRC Aims for $2.86 Billion Budget in 2016

District adopts "lump sum" budget, but future funding questions remain.

The School Reform Commission on Thursday adopted a $2.86 billion “lump sum” budget for the 2015-16 school year, providing the fiscal outlines for leaders as they begin to work on the details of that budget.

The outline — approved unanimously by the commission — assumes that the state and city will step forward with a combined $264 million in new revenues for the year, officials said — subtract an $80 million deficit now expected during the school year and the city’s public schools would still be left $180 million with which to make new investments. But individual schools are being told for now to create a “status quo” budget in case those funds don’t materialize.

“We’re just not certain that the money will be there,” said Matt Stanski, the district’s chief financial officer.

SRC Chairwoman Marjorie Neff urged district patrons to lobby decisionmakers to come through with the funding.

“This lump sum puts a stake in the ground. We must have the investment put forwrad by the governor and the mayor,” she said. “These dollars are critical to our students. … It will require the effort of students, families, teachers, staffers, and community members.”

One bit of good news at Thursday’s meeting: The district expects to end the 2014-15 school year with a $6.9 million surplus.

On the flip side, Stanski told the SRC that increased investment in Philly public schools next year will create a ballooning charter school payment the year after that, even if no new schools or additional students are allowed in the charter system — Pennsylvania state law bases funding for charters on their local district’s previous-year per-pupil spending. Any increase in funding thus creates a cascading effect down the line.

“We could see,” he said, “a big structural problem.”