Brockton Public School’s deficit could be $25 million this year, report says

0
26

Local News Brockton Public School’s deficit could be $25 million this year, report says The firm found that overall mismanagement of the entire budget and in-sourced transportation caused the district to overspend in 2023 and 2024. Most likely, they will face a similar deficit in 2025. Brockton High School students are dismissed at the end of the school day at 2 p.m. ohn Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Brockton Public Schools will likely face another massive funding deficit at the end of this school year after a deficit of more than $18 million was revealed last year, a new report said.
A final report from financial firm OpenArchitects — paid for by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to probe last year’s deficit — shows that this year’s deficit could reach $25 million.
The report also shows that there will most likely be a $7 to $19 million deficit in next year’s budget for Fiscal Year 2025.
A looming deficit is just another problem for the City of Champions and the Brockton School Committee. Committee members called for the National Guard earlier this month amid escalating violence at the high school.
Advertisement:
“We have not done a good enough job to plan for and mitigate those costs, nor have we taken enough care to adhere to budgeting best practices,” Acting Superintendent James Cobbs said in a statement. “We owe it to the Brockton community to do better.”
Where did the money go?
The firm blamed Brockton’s overall fiscal operations for the deficits, including “budget mismanagement and inadequate fiscal controls” as well as “complex contract and benefits administration.”
The financial firm — which has presented at past school committee meetings — said transportation costs are expected to be $22.5 million, which is twice the amount originally budgeted. Brockton began in-sourcing for transportation a few years ago when it purchased its own bus fleet, but “never created a proper budget to account for the full cost of services.”
During last week’s School Committee meeting, members discussed their decision for the district to buy its own buses. City of Brockton Chief Financial Troy Clarkson told members that at the time, the district estimated it would spend $9 to $11 million a year on transportation after in-sourcing.
“We far exceeded those estimates. The solution? I believe we need to admit that we were wrong, and that’s not easy to do for elected or appointed officials,” Clarkson said at last week’s meeting.
Advertisement:
OpenArchitects previously told school committee members that special education wasn’t properly budgeted, but their final report said that the BPS Special Education Department had no formal budget and relied on past years’ estimates. This resulted in at least $3.8 million in deficits, the firm said.
In addition to transportation and special education, the lack of organized employee contracts and benefits have cost millions of dollars. According to the firm, there was no unemployment budget to cover the layoffs in the spring of 2023, which cost almost $900,000.
The firm said with multiple incentives and bargaining agreements across the district, the budget was not only not balanced but also challenging to manage. For example, employees who could “buy back” sick days cost $1.5 million in last year’s deficit, and some salaried employees would collect overtime.
On top of mismanaged budgets, the district also did not properly use their financial system Munis. Sometimes, the budget allocation was entered as their requested funding instead of their actual funding. Another practice was to improperly manage grants — which meant the district spent inaccurate grant totals, the firm said.
Other budget practices — such as keeping 80% of the total $219 million in one fund — ensured a lack of oversight and approvals for much of the school’s funding.
Why is there a range for FY24, which ends in June?
OpenArchitects said that BPS and the City of Brockton should prepare for at least a $19 million deficit — despite $15 million in one-time funding they identified from federal and state grants.
Advertisement:
As the deadline approaches in June, the district can continue to balance the budget. However, a balanced budget is “unlikely,” OpenArchitects said.
With 150 open positions, the district could begin closing and reducing the positions. But the General Fund deficit could also grow. The firm is continuing to find expired grants, and BPS did not maintain purchase orders or contracts. OpenArchitects said invoices sometimes arrive without a funding source.
Last year, the City came to the district’s aid.
“The city can’t bail us out again. We just can’t,” Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan said during a School Committee meeting last month. “We don’t have the funds to do it.”
Still, the firm said the City of Brockton will need to “identify further funds” to alleviate BPS’s deficits for this year and next. For 2025 alone:
“… the City must find at least $12.2M in additional local funds for transportation and at least $8M to replenish the Chapter 324 Stabilization Fund, totaling over $20M,” the firm said.

admin

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here