Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho has proposed a tentative $2.7 billion budget that protects full-time teachers, relies on more virtual classes, boosts reserves and downsizes non-classroom departments.
Carvalho has pitched a marginally lower tax rate a 16-cent cut for the average taxpayer. A typical homeowner, however, would see their bill increase by about $42 because of an increase in property values.
The Miami-Dade School Board will consider the proposed budget and tax rate at its meeting Wednesday. Afterward, the board will advertise a tentative tax rate and hold the first of two budget hearings on July 26. Once the preliminary tax rate is advertised, the board can adopt a lower rate but not a higher one.
Also key to the budget: a $14.8 million reorganization that will condense regional offices from four to three and aims to sharpen the focus of all departments away from compliance to the districts core mission.
Its not about folks downtown monitoring what principals are doing, what teachers are doing. Its more about supporting teaching and learning in schools, Carvalho told board members recently.
As part of that reorganization, Carvalhos budget downsizes non-school departments by $12.7 million. Non-school departments include areas like transportation, finance, communications and facilities.
In assembling the new budget, the district administrators are hamstrung in how to solve a much bigger problem: how to pay for nearly $2 billion in deferred maintenance and capital upgrades at schools. The district has little capital to pay for maintenance, except for critical safety measures, because the bulk of its capital dollars are paying off old debt. Worsening the problem, the state has not given traditional public schools any public capital dollars for two years.
(Find the maintenance needs at your school in the database at MiamiHerald. com/Schools.)
The tentative budget moves several key items like property insurance from the capital budget to the general fund, because the capital fund cant support them.
Maintenance expenses are slated to be trimmed $18 million to $120 million. Thats down from $173 million in 2009-10. Judith Marte, the districts chief budget officer, said almost half of the reduction reflects savings from last year in supplies and gas, but will involve changes for midlevel managers.
Carvalho told the School Board at its July retreat that hes not interested in cutting workers who wear tool belts. Rather, changing work rules, like changes in shifts, will create savings, said Richard Hinds, the districts chief financial officer. Hinds said unless there are additional funds for capital identified, the capital program will continue to be downsized.
We have adequate money to keep doing critical maintenance on buildings, Hinds said. There needs to be a long-term solution.
Carvalho plans to bring a long-term solution to the School Board by the end of the year.
Chuck Burdeen, the executive director for the Dade County School Administrators Association, said the situation with deferred maintenance needs to be addressed.
Were so low on maintenance personnel and funding and they continue weakening the infrastructure, he said. You cant weaken the infrastructure without jeopardizing people students, teachers and other employees.