NYC could cover school budget cuts with leftover stimulus money, comptroller says

STATEN ISLAND, NY — A new report from the New York City comptroller’s office found that the Department of Education (DOE) will have more than $500 million in leftover stimulus money that could cover school budget cuts.

Comptroller Brad Lander announced Monday that his office updated its estimate of federal coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus dollars that were allocated to the city DOE.

As of June 2022, his office said, the DOE spent $2.33 billion of the $3.02 billion in stimulus funds that were budgeted.

While the agency can spend through September, the comptroller’s office estimated that $505.6 million in these funds have yet to be allocated — which could be enough to fully cover the $469 million Fair Student Funding cut from school budgets for Fiscal Year 2023, according to Lander’s office.

Seventy-seven percent of public schools in New York City are facing budget cuts, Lander’s analysis showed. Schools facing cuts are losing, on average, 8% of their budget.

“Preparing for the future means both fully funding our schools to help our kids recover from the pandemic and getting our fiscal house in order for the possibility of a recession,” said Lander in a press release. “Our year-end analysis shows we can do both. There’s no fiscal need to shortchange our kids.”

The DOE claimed it will see a $215 million drop in funding compared to this year’s budget, but Mayor Eric Adams refused to call them cuts. The mayor instead pointed to a “major drop” in enrollment among city public schools. The mayor’s office said the 2023 city-funded budget is still larger than the year before.

The comptroller’s analysis of the actual school budgets shows the gap facing principals is more than double that figure — at $469 million. However, the mayor’s office said this figure does not account for schools that gained enrollment, and only looks at selected funding sources.

There are dozens of funding sources in addition to Fair Student Funding that are added throughout the school year, including hundreds of millions of dollars that haven’t yet been allocated, the mayor’s office added. The city also said stimulus funding has been allocated to critical programs and needs — and if funds are shifted, the DOE must cut programming for other students.

“Every single student in our school system remains at 100% Fair Student Funding. We will continue to work to provide schools with the resources they need,” according to a City Hall spokesperson.

In total, the city has $4.4 billion remaining in federal coronavirus stimulus aid for education that must be spent by 2025, according to Lander’s office.

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