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Milwaukee school district fiscal projections improve, still point to deficits

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(The Center Square) – The Milwaukee Public Schools projects a five-year cost overrun among its major revenue funds totaling $103.3 million from 2024-25 through 2028-29.

That’s according to the superintendent’s proposed budget submitted to the district school board Tuesday for public comment.

Those projections were done in January 2024 and don’t include private, state and federal grant money the district receives. The projections include assumptions on key economic factors such as the inflation rate and employees’ raises.

The district has reserves that will offset the $103.3 million cost overrun. The current fund balance among the major revenue funds is $376.3 million. Those reserves are projected to drop to $273.1 million by 2028-29.

The district projects total revenues from 2024-25 through 2028-29 will rise. For example, the district budgeted for $1.226 billion in total revenues in 2023-24. The next four years are projected at $1.273 billion in 2024-25, $1.308.2 billion in 2025-26, $1.367 billion in 2027-28 and $1.417 billion in 2028-29.

“The district continues to operate in a challenging financial environment,” the report stated.

Projections can change over time. The superintendent’s proposed budget for 2023-24 had the district in dire financial condition. That budget included future projections that were calculated in December 2021.

While the current 2024-25 superintendent’s proposed budget projected a budget deficit of $79 million from 2024-25 through 2027-28, those December 2021 calculations foresaw a much bigger deficit of $618.3 million.

The large gap between those projections were due to the district pumping up its total revenue projections with the newer calculations. For example, the district estimated it would take it $706.5 million in state revenue in 2027-28. The newer report estimated state revenues at $788.2 million in 2027-28.

The school district didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

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