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Buffalo Public Schools approve budget, anticipating a $90M deficit

Buffalo Public Schools

Buffalo Public schools have a new budget for next year, a budget that probably won't hold for long, as Albany deals with a state budget much larger than the revenues coming in.

The Buffalo School Board and Superintendent Kriner Cash cut the basic spending plan because revenues were an issue. To put together the $955 million general fund budget passed Wednesday night, they threw in the estimated $30 million surplus from this year, $20 million from the school piggy bank and then cut millions of dollars more to meet an estimated $90 million anticipated deficit.

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggesting he might cut state school aid, Buffalo is looking at a possible $200 million less in aid. Chief Financial Officer Geoffrey Pritchard said there is more cash in the piggybank, just in case.

"We know that there's a possibility of substantial state aid reductions forthcoming and we don't know when they may be announced or how big or what federal offsets there might be. But we're in a position to utilize some fund balance in next year's budget to help offset further reductions," Pritchard said.

Washington has sent $1 billion to New York State under the CARES Act, but it remains stalled in Albany. Cash wants to see $29 million moved this way and would like to see even more from another stimulus bill being discussed in Washington.

"The governor will take this or take that," Cash said, "and then I'm very concerned about this education secretary who wants to see much of those funds diverted to non-public schools, and so you then don't know how much will actually come back to a large district like Buffalo Public."

Cash said the district anticipates $29 million from that COVID-19 aid. Proposed cuts and proposed spending shifts left Cash and Board President Sharon Belton-Cottman at verbal odds at times.

The specifics of the $955 million school budget are still being decided, as aides look at what schools are asking for in school-based budgets and the superintendent provides some staff or cash from his equity reserve.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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