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CPS finds money to plug $800 million hole in 2015 budget

Inside Chicago Public Schools headquarters 125 S. Clark CPS CEO BarbarByrd-Bennett spoke monthly meeting.   |  Al Podgorski

Inside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters at 125 S. Clark, CPS CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett spoke at the monthly meeting. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 2, 2014 9:31PM

Pinning its problems on pension woes, Chicago Public Schools said it found yet another one-time solution to fill a vast deficit in its $5.76 billion 2015 budget, this time expanding the calendar year in which the district will collect property tax revenue.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS CEO, said the district will count about $650 million of property tax revenue expected to be collected next August toward this fiscal year to plug the bulk of its $876.3 million deficit.

“The change in the way in which we recognize revenue enables us to balance FY15 budget but it’s a one time fix,” she said during a Wednesday afternoon conference call. “Our financial challenges continue to loom over us. This one-time action is not going to address our structural deficit and we just continue to tackle it, but we’ve got to receive pension reform from Springfield.”

The rest, Chief Financial officer Ginger Ostro said, will come from “one-time reserves” from spending less in fiscal year 2014 than expected — instead of using $640 million in reserves, the district needed just $430 million, she said.

Presenting the budget that’ll cover Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection year, Byrd-Bennett and Ostro said the district has cut a total of $740 million from central spending since 2011 when the mayor took office.

The district had not yet posted the full budget, briefing reporters with a Power Point presentation. Officials said the full budget wouldn’t be posted online at until 6 or 6:30 p.m.

The Chicago Teachers Union said it would release a full analysis after it sees the budget,

“The one part of the budget that we are aware of is the per-student funding formula which we believe is too low and continues to starve schools of resources,” spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a statement. “This puts our principals in situations where they have to decide whether to fire veteran teachers or cut vital programs such as art, music, library, vocational training and world languages.”

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