Though Metro Nashville Public Schools officials are still crunching numbers, the district’s superintendent says there’s “some real pressure” on the budget for the next fiscal year.
The Metro Nashville Board of Education’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to meet next Monday, the first gathering in a series of meetings to begin the process of outlining a budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The meetings, which include a March 10 public hearing, lead up to March 22 when the school board votes on a proposed budget.
“Just generally, there’s some real pressure on the budget this year,” Director of Schools Jesse Register told The City Paper. “Our federal budget, we have Race to The Top funds, but we’ve also used up our stimulus grants. So, we’re looking at reductions in the federal budget.
“The economy’s tough, and our budget inflates every year,” he said. “Because it’s so labor intensive, it takes millions of dollars literally every year in increases to just maintain what we’re doing. We’re beginning to work on it now. We have a lot of work to do before we finish it.”
Register said he didn’t have specific figures to report when asked for numbers following Tuesday’s board meeting.
Last year, the school board, Metro Council and Mayor Karl Dean approved the current fiscal year’s $633 million education budget, a $12.6 million increase from the previous year’s budget.
Because the district had already depleted its reserves, the district was forced to turn to cuts to make up a $25 million gap between revenues and expenditures. Those cuts, aimed at protecting teaching positions, included outsourcing 600 custodial positions, reducing the hours of bus drivers and laying off 24 central office employees.
Asked if the district is looking at a similar shortfall, Register replied, “absolutely.”
He said it’s “too early to tell” if cuts are required, adding that Metro schools officials have been in communication with Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling and Dean. “It will be a few weeks until we really know the extent of the problem.”
Register said board members Monday are to receive an initial report detailing the inflationary costs of the district. “We will not deal with reductions or cuts at this point in time,” he said.
Chris Henson, the district’s chief financial officer, called Monday’s meeting the “first step” of a “work in process.” He said there are still a number of unknowns, adding he’s still awaiting state revenue estimates and estimates of local sales and property tax revenue.
“We’ll definitely have additional requirements, as far as expenditures go, most of which are related to employee compensation items –– insurance increases and pension increases,” he said.