Education

Just how much does the school district contribute to WLRN? It’s unclear

Money is a big part of the dispute between the Miami-Dade school district and Friends of WLRN, the public radio station’s nonprofit fund-raising arm.

The district complains that Friends hasn’t been transparent about how it handles money. Friends questions how the district calculates its contribution. It might take accountants to sort things out.

The Miami-Dade school district said it has budgeted $4.4 million in general fund money for WLRN this fiscal year. That includes $1.6 million largely set aside for salaries and benefits and $2.8 million spent mainly on WLRN’s building and equipment.

That figure would mean the school district contributes almost as much as Friends. But that would be news to Friends’ chairman Dwight Hill, who said he is only aware of $1.6 million in contributions from the school district. Neither side could immediately explain the large gap.

READ MORE: School district eases off what records show was strong push for more control of WLRN

Friends, for its part, has budgeted about $5.1 million in 2017 for WLRN’s expenses and the salaries of news reporters and editors, paid through an affiliated nonprofit called South Florida Public Media.

The money Friends handles doesn’t come from Miami-Dade taxpayers but from donors, underwriting and other sources. For listeners wondering how much of their contributions go toward running the station, Friends predicts the nonprofit will take in $7.8 million this year in revenue, of which 65 percent will go to WLRN and its reporting staff. The remaining $2.7 million — or about 35 percent — will be used to pay salaries for Friends’ staff, marketing, development and other expenses.

The district’s contributions to WLRN also don’t come from Miami-Dade taxpayers. The funds the district allocates to WLRN mainly come from leasing the excess capacity, or unused satellite circuits, of Educational Services Broadband frequencies to a telecommunications company, for which the district receives around $375,000 a month.

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