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Masch: Corbett budget worsens revenue shortfall

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District was already expecting to lose $309 million in federal stimulus funds for next year. But Gov. Corbett’s just-released budget plan will in total cost the District more than $400 million in lost revenue, according to Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch.

The deeper reduction reflects Corbett’s decision to eliminate three big-ticket items in the state budget that provided substantial funds to Philadelphia, Masch said. They are:

  • the charter school reimbursement program, at a cost to the District of $110 million.
  • the Educational Assistance Program, which supports afterschool and summer programs, at a cost to the District of $55 million.
  • the Accountability Block Grant program, used to fund full-day kindergarten, at a cost to the District of $55 million.

That is on top of $107 million reduction in its basic education subsidy.

That cut "could have been worse," Masch said, noting that Corbett is coming up with state dollars to replace about half of the federal stimulus dollars that were used to boost state aid. Nonetheless, the governor’s budget is being slammed by education advocates.

Speaking at an evening press briefing, Masch mostly limited his comments to details of the District’s $400 million loss on the revenue side. If approved, the Corbett budget would result in "a reduction in our revenues of over 12 percent" in what is now a $3.1 billion District budget, he said.

In recent presentations, Masch had pegged the District’s expected loss of federal stimulus funds at $300 million.

He did not put a dollar figure on the expense increases faced by the District in the coming year’s budget. Nor did he respond directly to reporters’ questions about the estimated size of the overall budget gap, which District officials had previously estimated at $400 million or more, and presumably now is much worse.

Masch did acknowledge that the District faces substantial "cost pressures" associated with charter school expenses, stemming from an increase in the per pupil reimbursement and growth in charter enrollment. Masch recognized the possibility that some charters will now increase their enrollments beyond previously agreed on caps after the Department of Education ruled last week in favor of one charter school. He said the District’s budget, to be released in April, would include the District’s best guess on charter enrollment increases.

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