Charter school management group Crescent City Schools plans to spend $17.9 million on its three schools and its organization for the upcoming fiscal year, board members revealed at a Wednesday budget hearing.
It’s a far cry from the small $25,000 budget that helped launch the organization in 2011 , Chief Executive Officer Kate Mehok said. Back then, Harriet Tubman Charter was the network’s only school.
Crescent City now runs Tubman and Akili Academy, and will assume control of Paul Habans Charter School on July 1.
For the coming budget year, the board’s spending exceeds projected revenues by about $139,000, with revenues only reaching $17.8 million. Chief Operating Officer Chris Hines said the board will balance the budget by using some of its nearly $2 million in reserves. *
Overall, they are projecting to spend $7.2 million, or 67 percent, more than they did last year, as they add a third school to their portfolio. Revenues will also increase by $5.4 million, or 44 percent.
The school advertised its budget in The Times-Picayune on May 31, in line with legal budget requirements.
Akili’s expects to spend $1.6 million more than last year, and it expects to bring in $1.4 million more. The school will run a deficit of $159,000.
A big portion of Akili’s increase in costs comes from its switch to the more expensive food service vendor, Revolution Foods, Hines said. They will also see higher transportation costs because they’ll have an additional 64 kids attending the school. The new kids will fit into the larger William Frantz Elementary School building that Akili will soon occupy.
In general, they are spending about $449,000 more on these type of purchased services than they did last year.
They’ll also spend close to $659,000 more on salaries as they hire more staff to keep up with the extra students. Akili’s getting three more classroom teachers, another interventionist, and three new special education teachers. They’ll also hire a new paraprofessional, speech therapist, facility manager, kitchen manager, and an executive assistant.
They’ll spend just more than $239,000 more on benefits than they did last year, as more staff are added and as the school allows for higher participation rates than it did in previous years.
New custodial services and security costs at the 97,000 square-foot Frantz means that the school will spend close to $89,000 more than it did on similar services this year. The school is now housed in trailers on Pratt Drive.
Akili also will buy computers to outfit two labs at Frantz, and musical instruments for new enrichment programs.
Harriet Tubman Charter School
Officials predict that Tubman’s January move to the O. Perry Walker Senior High School building just down the street will mean more cash, although their increases are not as large as Akili’s.
They expect to spend about $322,000 more than they did last year overall, and they expect to receive about $359,000 less. They’ll run a deficit of $327,000.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gave the merger of two Algiers high schools, Walker and nearby L.B. Landry High, a final blessing Tuesday, despite raucous public protest. That controversial decision freed up use of the Walker building for Tubman students use during their building’s renovation, in line with the state and local education officials’ original plan.
In total, they plan to spend $59,771 more on building and maintenance costs than they did last year.
Tubman plans to hire four new academic interventionists, a speech therapist and a special education evaluator, among other positions, which will cause salaries to increase by about 7 percent. It will cut the positions of its operations manager and one of its two time-out center coordinator.* Overall, school leaders plan to spend less on special education services, since the hiring their own speech therapist and special education evaluator lets them bring those services in house.
School principal Julie Lause will buy her staff new computers.
Tubman’s budget accounts for a $686,000 fund balance that the Algiers Charter School Association transferred to Crescent City earlier this year. Among other uses for that cash, Tubman students will get a new drumline.
The charter management organization
The budget is conservative, and based on what Harrell called “a worse case” scenario in terms of fundraising efforts.
Board president JP Hymel emphasized Harrell’s point: “I guess we come from the world of business, where its just hard to look at the deficit,” he said. But with their “track record of… having donated funds,” it shouldn’t be a problem to raise cash to fill the gap, he said.
The organization received $723,777 so far in contributions and donations this fiscal year, although it only budgeted for about $530,905, according to a May year-to-date budget roundup.
Habans, the new charter, is predicted to have a surplus of $377,452. It will spend $5.6 million.
On the organizational level: Crescent City will hire a new communications manager and a finance and compliance manager, meaning they’ll spend $171,458 more on salaries this year. They’ll also install an additional office at Habans, spend more on advertising for the new school, and get a new school information system and other software.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story said Crescent City Schools needed to raise money to fill the $139,000 budget gap. Despite remarks from the board members backing up that assertion, Chief Operating Officer Chris Hines contacted The Lens after the meeting to say the budget will be balanced by taking money from reserves. Further, the story said earlier that Tubman was eliminating a time-out center position. In fact, it’s eliminating one of the two positions it now has.