July 23, 2024

BPS budget meeting discusses plan for when ARP funding runs out

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It is a new year but the same goal for Western New York’s largest school district.

The Buffalo Public Schools District has to cut $90 million in spending, by the end of the school year.

Budget talks among school leaders began in November 2023.

The $90 million hole comes from American Rescue Plan Funds, which is money was given to each district during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That funding is set to run out on June 30.

The school district’s chief financial officer, Jim Barnes explained to 7 News that the board is considering multiple options to cut costs.

“We can use various methods, utilize existing vacancies and there are more vacancies right now, than there are positions in the ARP/ESSER fund. We’re also in an extremely strong financial condition,” Jim Barnes said.

Things like one-time HVAC unit installations and ending the professional development to help with learning loss from the pandemic would help the district easily make these cuts for the next school year.

“We’re attempting to not produce any layoffs that are currently funded in ARP/ESSER. It’s one of our top priorities but it’s going to be tricky to do that and one of the tools we have is we typically have 300 retirees so a potential tool is to not hire a good chunk of those positions,” Barnes said.

The reason they cannot not move those 300+ full time positions is because the district’s enrollment has dropped by about 3,000 kids.

With the loss of the funding, Barnes said more efficiency needs to be brought to the schools.

“What we really need to do to stabilize our counts so that we can inform decisions regarding the positions in ARP/ESSER is to put on a hiring freeze right now so then we will know how many current vacancies we have that could possibly be cut to be utilized on those ARP/ESSER positions,” Barnes added.

It is a hiring freeze except for essential employees that will need to be approved by Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams.

For example, if there is a critical need for a math teacher because one retired, they would hire for that position. That hiring freeze will run through June 30.

“What is being talked about in the community is these potential layoffs. Well, the last thing you want to do is be hiring people while discussing layoffs.” // “One of the goals is to not have layoffs. That’s not a promise but it’s a goal,” he told Kassahun.

The next work session of the board of education is on Wednesday, February 7.

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