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Budget Brief: 2015 Proposed Budget Milwaukee Public Schools

In December 2012, the Public Policy Forum released a comprehensive analysis of the Milwaukee Public Schools’ fiscal condition.  The report – entitled Passing the Test, But Making the Grade? – was designed to explore the severity of MPS’ financial challenges and the extent to which recent efforts to control health care costs, “right-size” operations, and improve operational efficiency had improved the district’s long-term outlook.  Our answer was that MPS had made considerable progress in rectifying its near-term budget challenges, but that its financial future remained “unsettled and uncertain.” 

Eighteen months later, our review of the MPS Superintendent’s proposed budget for the 2014-15 academic year yields a similar conclusion.  Health care and pension changes effectuated during the past four years continue to reap substantial budgetary dividends, allowing the district to stave off school-based personnel reductions in 2015.  In addition, the departure of more than 4,300 staff (primarily due to retirements) during the past four years – while creating huge programmatic challenges – has allowed the district to realize annual savings in salary expenditures because of the ability to reduce staffing levels and hire new employees at lower levels of existing pay ranges.