Brockton City Council slashes school transportation funding

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Schools Brockton City Council slashes school transportation funding as district tries to move past budget deficit BPS initially asked for $18 million for transportation costs. The Council approved $11 million and set aside $7 million for later use. Photo by: Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Brockton City Council approved a budget for Brockton Public Schools but cut $7 million from the district’s transportation budget, which funds an in-house bus depot that is partially to blame for the district’s financial woes.
BPS initially requested $232 million in net school spending plus an additional $18 million for school “non-net spending,” which exclusively funds transportations services for the district.
Mayor Robert Sullivan asked the council for $6 million less than what the district requested, according to the Brockton Enterprise, which equals about $226 million for schools outside of transportation. Last year, the City Council approved a $231 million school budget.
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At a City Council meeting last week, councilors unanimously approved the mayor’s suggested budget for the fiscal year that starts Monday with one change, approving $11 million for transportation instead of the requested $18 million.
Councilor John Lally presented the amendment to the budget, which moves $7 million into the city’s general fund for use later in the year.
“We want them to put in a little work, try and manage that money a little more aggressively,” Lally said. “We want them to come back, and we want them to show what they’ve done, to update us and to tell us how they are performing.”
Brockton’s financial troubles stem partially from taking their bus services in-house. When the district bought their own fleet of buses, the School Committee said, they were told it could save money. Instead, they spent almost double their budget, an independent financial firm told the School Committee earlier this year.
The School Committee has struggled to rein in transportation costs since. Last year, the district budgeted for $12 million for transportation but overspent by nearly $3 million, according to BPS budget documents.
The firm OpenArchitects initially projected a $25 million deficit for the district this year after an $18 million deficit the year before. But, after identifying unspent state and federal grants and programs, including federal pandemic relief, the district ended the fiscal year with a small surplus.
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Still, members of the City Council laid into Sullivan, who chairs the School Committee, for rampant spending, particularly in transportation, over the last few years.
Councilor Thomas Minichiello said the district should eliminate private contracts and pay by the mile, not by the hour.
“It’s not like we’re cutting money and we’re saying you can’t come back without giving any outline as to where they can find cost savings,” Minichiello said. “They just need to do the hard work.”
The Council also discussed a preschool schedule change, which cost the city more than $3 million in transportation costs for the previous fiscal year. The City used surplus from police and fire departments to pay off the expense.
The change was approved only by the superintendent, Sullivan told the Council.
“The mayor and the council president should have a say on that, that’s my humble opinion,” Sullivan said.

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