19 Individual Public Schools in Milwaukee Run up Deficits in Excess of $200,000

MacIver News Service | October 27, 2010

[Milwaukee, Wisc…] Milwaukee’s public schools racked up a $10.7 million dollar operating deficit in 2010 as several individual schools overspent their budgets, MacIver News Service has learned.

A school-by-school breakdown showed that 93 institutions in the city plunged into debt this fiscal year. Nineteen schools reported deficits of more than $200,000 over the 12 month span, and several others easily posted six figure liabilities. Even with a $3.4 million dollar surplus, MPS is still on the hook to make up over $7.3 million in fiscal responsibilities as a result of the operating deficit.

At a recent committee meeting, the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Board attributed several factors that led to overspending in MPS schools. Teachers, teachers’ aides, and part-time certified teachers made up an estimated $3.2 million in overages – not including overtime ($501,000) or noon supervision ($456,000). Other expenses that overflowed past the allotted budget included telephone services, textbooks, supplies, building modifications, and two categories simply labeled “general services” ($560,000) and “optional services” ($854,000).

While the average deficit amount in Milwaukee’s Public Schools has increased by 15.5% and become more widespread, the average surplus shrunk by 28.4%. In all, there were 93 schools in deficit, each owing an average of $131,626. This was an 86% increase from 2009, when only 50 institutions had the same problem. The average deficit amount that year was only $113,913.

Conversely, just 67 MPS schools posted surpluses, with the average savings being $69,499. This was a 39% decrease from the previous year, when 110 schools had an average surplus of $97,101.

Schools such as Bradley Tech ($751,422), Audubon Middle ($426,240), and Vel Phillips ($475,960) were the worst spenders.

Northwest Secondary ($268,031), Languages (145,490), Kilmer ($103,836), and King ($103,869) were all able to post six-figure surpluses, easing the burden that the District has created for itself.

In 2010, over 58% of Milwaukee Public Schools spent outside their budgets and contributed to the a cloud of debt for the district to take care of. This highlights a recent trend of overspending that has escalated in the past two years, and may soon roar to a head.

While Bond Issues and surpluses elsewhere can alleviate some of the problems this spending causes, they are only temporary solutions. The MPS Administration did not respond to MacIver News Service’s inquiry about this issue.