Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City
March 2002

$2.4 Billion Education Budget Shortfall Rings in New Year of Financial Troubles
By Bruce Myint

If the New York City Board of Education’s 2000-2004 capital budget were a math test, the board would have needed a re-take. Their 1999 estimates for school construction projects undershot the rocketing costs of school construction, resulting in a $2.4 billion shortfall, according to a recent report issued by the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO). Worse, the miscalculations will delay school construction projects citywide; news that will come of little consolation to those districts burdened with overcrowded classrooms, crumbling masonry, and broken windows.

School construction and renovation costs have exceeded the BOE’s 1999 estimates by more than 70 percent. Due to the higher costs, the BOE lacks funding for its projects which means that it must defer a range of vital projects in all five boroughs: building of new schools, school renovations, and the construction of additions.

The BOE’s five-year capital plan, written in May 1999, underestimated school construction costs by as much as 90 percent. For instance, when the board estimated costs for building Frank Sinatra High School in Astoria it was originally set at $48.9 million. Since then, the cost has rocketed to $90.5 million. School renovation costs grew as well. For example, renovating the roof of John Jay High School Annex in Park Slope—originally estimated at $1.1 million—has risen to $1.9 million.

Why the shortfall? Last summer Chancellor Levy cited a litany of reasons including: higher than expected construction bids; delays in project start dates; and low cost estimates due to inadequate knowledge of work scope, location of project, or particular difficulties associated with selected sites.

No matter what the cause, the BOE addressed the disparity by amending the budget in December. The outlook is grim. According to the IBO, the revised plan will result in construction delays for eight new schools, two additions to existing facilities, one building conversion, and improvements for seven schools in leased facilities. In total, the revised budget will postpone the creation of over 11,000 seats.

To be fair, the board could have done little to anticipate the soaring costs of construction brought on, in some part, by the flagging economy. However, the current shortfall is not without precedent. Costs for school capital projects exceeded estimates in both the 1990-1994 and the 1995-1999 capital budgets. Deficits from both budgets snowballed into the current plan. Without additional funding, some projects from the current plan will likely be pushed into the next five-year plan.

In December, Chancellor Levy announced the need to make changes to the capital-budget planning process, “With the need for school seats so acute, the pressure on school capital finances so intense, and the city’s real estate market so unpredictable, particularly following the World Trade Center attack, it is essential that we find ways to make better use of our existing buildings.” The chancellor also cited a need to “devise new ways of building and renovating schools promptly, efficiently and with full public knowledge and accountability.” To do so he proposed scrutinizing the capital budget more closely and revising it more often. In addition, the Chancellor has brought into the fold experts in building design, construction, real estate, finance, and business management to identify new strategies to “do more with less”.

While the changes look promising, they may not be enough. For even as steps are taken to improve the capital-budget planning process, the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget has ordered reductions to capital programs starting in 2002. Furthermore, Governor Pataki’s Executive Budget proposal is expected to worsen matters; the BOE may stand to receive $157 million less than it anticipated for next year. As a result, the BOE may need to revise the already-amended plan which may result in further delays. However, those decisions are still pending.

“Now with the proposed budget cuts we are reviewing the program; the chancellor and the board will make a decision. None has been made as of yet,” says Board of Education Press Officer Margie Feinberg.

With a future bleak and uncertain, even the present is still up in the air.#

Bruce Myint, a doctoral student at Teachers College, and is an intern at Education Update.


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.