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Buffalo School Board starts work on next year’s budget

The budget season has begun for Buffalo Public Schools.

Barbara Smith, the district’s financial officer, presented an overview of the 2015-16 school year spending plan during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Board of Education’s Finance and Operations Committee.

“This is what we’re projecting,” Smith said. The current budget is $806.6 million, and officials are expecting an $11 million revenue increase next year for a total of $817.6 million.

The assumptions are that state aid will increase by $11.8 million and revenues from the county sales tax will increase by $2.4 million. The district expects to use $6.9 million from its reserve fund for next year, down from the $10.2 million taken from reserves for the current school year.

Expenditures are expected to increase next year by $20.4 million, bringing the total expenditures to $827 million. That includes a health insurance increase for additional staff, 100 retirees and a 6 percent rate increase. Also, transportation costs likely will go up about $5.6 million, and there will be charter school tuition increases for 325 more students, Smith said.

Factoring in upcoming key initiatives like the loss of grant funds, the reduction of kindergarten class sizes and various phase-in and phase-out plans, the district projects a minimum deficit of around $14 million.

Smith also presented options for closing the deficit. The district can revisit building options in terms of schools that are leased, buildings that are not operating as schools or buildings that have not been reconstructed. For example, there are two vacant buildings, which once housed Schools 8 and 171, and School 46 has adult education offices and classes.

The budget process will continue until May 13, when the board plans to adopt it.Some other key dates are:

• The week of Feb. 9, departments will submit budget requests and individual schools will receive their school-based budgets workbooks and handouts. They are due back to administrators by March 30.

• On April 27, the district’s four-year plan, including future deficit closure priorities are due to the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.

• Dates and times for public presentations of the budget and workshop sessions with School Board members will be determined.

In other business, the board will host a public hearing Monday at West Hertel Elementary School, 489 Hertel Ave., on proposals received from charter schools that have requested space in district buildings. The Charter School for Applied Technologies will present at 4:30 p.m., followed by Health Sciences Charter School at 5:30 and Tapestry Charter School at 6:30. Each charter school will have 30 minutes to give their presentations, followed by a 30-minute question and answer period for board members.Charter School for Applied Technologies and Tapestry have both submitted requests to expand and/or relocate their high schools to Bennett High School.

Health Sciences wants to take over Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute so it can expand its charter school into the elementary grades.