BPS Ended FY20 with a Small Surplus
BPS has 30th consecutive year ending on a positive note
Despite the rapid shift towards remote learning and other major disruptions caused by the pandemic, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) budget ended FY20 on target, with a surplus of $1,835. Triggered by a spending freeze on all non-essential items, BPS was able to shift non-salary resources to cover increased salary costs.
Salaries Lead the Way In FY20 spending for salaries totaled $796.7M or 67.6% of total BPS spending. Teacher’s salaries made up the single largest share of the salary account: $456.7M or 38.7%. Overall spending on teacher salaries came in under budget by 0.09% ($0.4M), and the allocation of funding within the account shifted significantly. General education teacher salaries were $8.3M (5.2%) below budget while bilingual teachers were $2.0M (2.5%) above. Additionally, salaries for Special Education teachers were $1.8M above budget. This follows a general pattern of fluctuation as certain programs expand or teacher cohorts enter higher paygrades, the costs shift back and forth.
Salaries for custodians, school safety personnel, and other technical positions such as food service workers and community outreach came in $5.9M (11.2%) over budget. This is due almost exclusively to unbudgeted food service worker costs of $5.6M. During remote learning, the BPS continued to provide student meals through distribution sites or home delivery. The deficit in this account stems from less revenue being generated due to a smaller number of meals served combined with higher costs of prepackaged meals and maintaining the same staffing levels. This will continue to be a problem as long as students stay remote. Coronavirus Relief funds earmarked for the BPS will be used to mitigate these costs
Long Term Leave also ended up over budget in FY20, by $8.2M (111.0%). This is due to a combination of the typical challenges in predicting need for long term leave, exacerbated by additional strain on the system from COVID-19.
Spending Freeze With the exception of purchased services, non-salary spending accounts came in under budget by $8.9M (2.3%). When the COVID-19 lockdown forced BPS into remote learning, the department instituted a spending freeze for all non-essential items. The money saved on this spending freeze was directed to contracted educational services, which are typically split between the General Fund and Circuit Breaker funding. However, because the Circuit Breaker program has more flexibility than the General Fund and can be carried over, all available non-personnel money was spent on these services.