Chipping away at the deficit

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

  • Last fall, District officials announced they had uncovered a $73 million deficit and implemented a plan of cutbacks, through which about $50 million in net savings was achieved. Cuts included the elimination of 175 central office positions in December 2006. In March 2007, District leaders revealed they were facing an even bigger deficit for 2007-08. Including a deficit carryover, the budget gap was projected at more than $180 million for the year ending June 30, 2008. District officials presented a deficit reduction plan in April 2007, relying on $82 million in new revenues and about $99 million in expenditure reductions to close that gap. By August 2007, the District was close to meeting its revenue goal, anticipating new funds from the city and state totaling more than $77 million. Big components were increased state aid and the passage of a bill to increase the District’s share of city real estate tax revenues by $18 million annually. Through another round of cutbacks, the District secured almost $50 million in savings by August – about half the planned expenditure reductions. Big-ticket items were central and regional office staffing reductions, reductions in outside contracts, and two property sales. With a gap of $55 million still to be closed, the District entered the school year considering further strategies to reduce expenditures. A dozen recommendations that might reduce the deficit to $20 million included cuts in funding to alternative and disciplinary schools, elimination of about 30 teaching positions in schools where enrollments have dropped, and outsourcing of some administrative functions. In September 2007, Mayor Street announced a more aggressive effort to collect delinquent city taxes and predicted it could generate $42 million for the District in the 2007-08 fiscal year. District officials were weighing what amount can be budgeted as gap-closing revenue.