PPS budget boosts per-pupil spending

PPS budget boosts per-pupil spending

In a 2016 Brief we noted “for several years the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) has had total outlays near or above $20,000 per student, ranking it among the highest spending districts in the state.”  For certain, PPS audited finances show general fund expenditures rising from $532.4 million to $598.8 million from 2014 to 2017.  Over the same time frame, enrollment fell from 25,504 to 23,711.  With expenditures climbing 12 percent and enrollment falling 7 percent the per-pupil amount rose 21 percent to stand at $25,254.

Based on the 2019 preliminary budget not much will change. PPS’ general fund expenditures are $643.7 million, which is 3 percent greater than what was budgeted for 2018 ($625.1 million).  If PPS enrollment listed currently on the Future Ready PA Index site as well as the PPS Facts at a Glance page is accurate (22,370 students) per-pupil general fund expenditures this coming year will be $28,774.

When examining expenditures by function, $390.6 million (61 percent) is accounted for by instruction, an increase from $372.9 million this year.  Instructional support and support services are also increasing while debt service will decline by $4.5 million to $44.7 million.  When measured by object, salaries and benefits, special education and charter schools are projected to increase in 2019.

On the revenue side, local, state and other sources will raise $615.4 million.  There will be a $28.3 million transfer from the fund balance to cover the expenditure amount.  There are no planned increases to the rates of the three main taxes levied by PPS (property, wage and deed transfer) but the budget expects local sources to grow in 2019 with $9.5 million of the increase coming from property tax receipts.

Without a reassessment or a millage hike, PPS has to be counting on new construction and improvements or is going to be very active in appeals to raise that much money.  State sources are not expected to grow significantly ($267.3 million to $268.8 million) with the largest dollar increase ($2.4 million) for retirement contributions.

While the budget does not mention “insolvency” as previous ones did, how can Pittsburgh Public Schools continue to see rising expenses, falling enrollment and produce lackluster results and not be in a critical situation?