Pittsburgh Public Schools will still run out of money in 2015 despite smaller deficit

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Pittsburgh Public Schools officials estimate that even though 2012 is estimated to have ended with a significantly smaller deficit than forecast at the start of the year, the district still will run out of money in 2015.

At a board committee meeting tonight, Ron Joseph, director of budget development, management and operations, said the year-end deficit is expected to be $6.39 million. When the board approved the 2012 budget, the district faced an estimated operating deficit of $21.7 million.

Even so, a deficit of $9.86 million is forecast for this year unless budget changes take place during the year, ultimately growing to the point that Mr. Joseph said the district will be "insolvent" in 2015.

Mr. Joseph said the governor's proposed state education budget provides a net increase of about $1 million in basic education funding, accountability block grants and special education combined. The governor's proposed pension reform -- a controversial proposal which would take legislative approval -- would save the district $11.1 million over four years but would not be enough for the district to avoid running out of money in 2015.

Superintendent Linda Lane said there is going to be "a lot of pushback" on the pension plan which would change future benefits that are as of now unearned. "Even it it were to go through, it would result in a rush to the exit in 2015 like this state has never seen."

She said teacher departures would be so great that it may be difficult to find teachers in certain areas. "That would be a real statewide human resources issue," she said.

Mr. Joseph said federal sequestration could cause the district to lose between $3.3 million and $4.3 million in 2013-14.

"We haven't solved our financial problem," he said. "We must continue to explore all traditional and non-traditional cost-cutting measures."

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Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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