As readers have seen, the last two Wait, What? blog posts have dealt with the amount of money Bridgeport has allocated for their special education programs in this year’s budget.
With the vote for a democratically elected board of education on September 4th, the issue of transparency and honesty becomes extremely important.
Yesterday afternoon, Paul Vallas’ Chief of Staff released a statement refuting the numbers that I had posted about the City’s special education budget.
On Tuesday, I wrote, “Bridgeport’s new city budget eliminates 90 percent of the money needed to pay the tuition costs for the placement of special education students in what has been determined as the most appropriate environment for these children.
Last year, Bridgeport spent $39.8 million on costs associated with educating and supporting its special education students. This year, Bridgeport’s approved school budget reduces that number to $18.9 million
That is a cut of $14 million dollars, and almost all of it comes from ending the placement of special education students who need services beyond what the school system can provide.
Vallas and the board cut the funds appropriated for out-of-district tuition and support services from $15.0 million to $1.4 million (see this year’s budget – link below).”
In response, Team Vallas responded with the following memo to staff and released to the public;
“It was recently brought to our attention that there is a budget document that has been posted on the City of Bridgeport website that shows a reduction of special education costs by $13,922,510 in the 2012-2013 school year. This information is incorrect.”
The announcement continued, “Upon contacting the City we have determined that this document was produced as part of the City’s internal budget process and not meant in any way to accurately reflect the district’s spending allocation for next year.”
According to Vallas’ operation, the information I cited is wrong and the document I linked to was from “the City’s internal budget process.”
Just to be clear, here are links to the actual information I posted, and all cases, included the numbers that I utilized;
- Mayor Finch’s proposed 2012-1013 budget, including the proposed Board of Education’s budget. (Office of Policy and Management) http://www.bridgeportct.gov/OfficeofPolicyMgmt/Pages/2012-2013ProposedBudget.aspx
- A detailed Breakdown of the proposed Board of Education Budget as attached to Mayor Finch’s proposed 2012-2013 city budget. http://www.bridgeportct.gov/OfficeofPolicyMgmt/Documents/2013%20Proposed/Miscellaneous%20Divisions%20and%20Library.pdf
- The Mayor’s proposed budget, as officially transmitted to the City Council, including the proposed Board of Education budget. http://www.scribd.com/doc/87865635/2013-Mayor-s-Proposed-Budget
- And the City of Bridgeport’s official budget, following its adoption by the City Council, and including the Board of Education budget. http://www.bridgeportct.gov/OfficeofPolicyMgmt/Pages/2012-2013AdoptedBudget.aspx
Yesterday’s Team Vallas communication went on to read, “attached, please find the 2012-13 special education budget, generated from MUNIS, which is reflective of our 2012-13 financial plan. The 2012-13 special education budget is reduced by approximately $3.6M, in comparison to 2011-12, due to the following factors…”
And added, “While we were unaware of the production of this budget document by the City, we appreciate the opportunity to clarify our plan for delivering full and effective services to our students next year while maintaining a balanced budget. As stated previously, we look forward to publicly releasing our complete line-item budget on Monday, August 27th, at the final Board of Education meeting of the summer. This will be the first time that the district has released its full and complete budget independent from the City, and we look forward to discussing it in full and continuing to maintain a balanced budget that keep our district financially sound for years to come.”
So, in summary, the Vallas defense is that they were unaware of the budget document produced by the City and that during Monday’s meeting, the Superintendent will be releasing, for the first time, their complete budget.
Their commitment to setting the record straight is appreciated.
There are just a few follow-up questions for Team Vallas and Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education;
(1) Just to be clear, is Team Vallas saying that neither the Superintendent nor his office reviewed the budget that Mayor Finch proposed? That neither the Superintendent nor his office reviewed the budget that was officially transmitted to the City Council? that neither the Superintendent nor his office reviewed the budget that the City Council approved? And that neither the Superintendent nor his office reviewed Bridgeport’s Official 2012-2013 budget, a document that has been posted on the City’s website for more than three months?
(2) Team Vallas is saying that a detailed budget for Bridgeport’s schools will be unveiled, for the first time next Monday. Does that mean that the members of the Board of Education reviewed and adopted a 2012-2013 budget without ever seeing a proposed line-item budget?
(3) And finally, as evidence that a “correct budget” does exist, Team Vallas provided a print- out dated 8/22/2012 (Time 1:50 p.m.) The document includes the following categories: The “ORIGINAL Budget; TRANFRS/Adjustments to the budget; REVISED Budget; YTD EXPENDED, ENCUMBRANCES; etc.
And those numbers are officially as follows:
55540 BOE Tuition
For those who haven’t had an opportunity to work with public agency budgets before, the print out Team Vallas provided means that the approved budget for Account 55540 BOE Tuition was for $1.4 million and that $9.4 million was transferred into the account AFTER the budget was approved. Which raises the questions, when did this transfer take place, and by whose authority, considering there is no record that the Board of Education ever took up the matter?