Brockton Schools announces plan to balance a $25 million budget gap

Facing a projected shortfall of more than $20 million, Brockton Public School officials have been searching for ways to cut costs and balance the books before the fiscal year ends on June 30.

The district has identified $10 million in one time cuts, reductions or spending deferrals to mitigate the deficit, which school officials said won’t impact the student in-school experience.

In addition, Open Architects, a state-backed data analytics firm, found roughly $15 million in funding from accounts with unspent money that can go towards slashing the shortfall.

In March, Open Architects announced after a review of the school district’s finances a projected shortfall of $19 to $25 million for the current fiscal year. Since then, Open Architects representatives and members of the school’s business team have been searching for ways to cut costs before the fiscal year ends.

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“We are working diligently both internally and with our state and local partners to mitigate the budget challenges we are facing and ensure we’re on a path toward a balanced budget both this year and in the years to come,” said James Cobbs, acting superintendent of BPS, in a statement regarding the financial changes.

“To achieve that goal, however, means making difficult choices while keeping students’ learning and safety at the forefront of every decision we make,” Cobbs said. “These guiding principles mean doing everything we can to ensure we are not reducing classroom staffing and are instead correcting course on our spending in a way that will not directly impact students’ experience day-to-day.” 

Special education budget

Several school budget accounts are holding over $1 million each in unspent funds from the state or federal governments, that must be used for certain supplies or student services.

The largest portion of money comes from the district’s Circuit Breaker fund which reimburses schools in Massachusetts for the cost of providing special education services for students with special needs. BPS’s special education department hasn’t been fully funded and has majorly contributed to the deficit, according to Open Architects and school finance officials.

Open Architects found $7 million of unspent cash in the BPS Circuit Breaker account that can help offset the special education portion of deficit.

Homeless student transportation

In addition, the district has $1.7 million in its McKinney Vento account, which is meant to help fund the academic needs of students who are homeless. TJ Plante from Open Architects said this money has already been moved to offset homeless student transportation.

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Over 1,000 BPS students and their families are currently experiencing homelessness and are placed in shelters both inside and outside of Brockton. Transporting these students to and from school has also largely contributed to the district’s budget deficit.

Finding additional cash

Just over $5 million is available to the district in its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) account. This pandemic-era funding can be used in a wide variety of ways related to education.

Another $1.2 million was identified in BPS’s school choice revolving account, which holds money BPS receives in tuition each month from students who attend Brockton schools through the state’s school choice program.

$10 million in spending reductions

On top of the $15 million Open Architects found in additional funding sources, the district plans to save $10 million by reducing or differing certain payments or purchases to future fiscal years.

Approximately $2 million will be saved to make up the deficit by delaying the purchase of new technology including new laptops for students. According to Michele Conners, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for grades six through 12, current student school laptops are out of date.

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BPS plans to save a total of $940,000 by not purchasing certain instructional materials, and almost $500,000 will be saved by delaying maintenance of certain school grounds and facilities.

Brockton is also sending a community for the Norfolk County Agricultural School, and BPS pays the tuition for Brockton students that attend the school. According to BPS officials, the district budgeted more than was needed and now $1.6 million will be moved to cover the deficit.

Reducing BHS security budget

Although schools in Brockton have struggled with violence and problems related to safety, BPS will reduce the Brockton High School security budget by at least $125,000.

“While some of the proposed spending reductions relate to security, the district believes it can achieve the goals related to its ongoing school safety work while not expending the full amount budgeted for specific security-related line items,” said BPS Director of Communications Jordan Mayblum.

“These proposed spending reductions will not impact the plan to increase security staff at Brockton High School,” he said.

BPS officials did not comment on what specifically will be impacted by the changes to the security budget since the district still plans to hire more security staff.

Other reductions include $50,000 in school committee stipends, $275,000 in school police overtime pays, $925,000 in custodial overtime pay and roughly $1.4 million in contracted services.

BPS also plans to reduce or restructure several administrative departments ahead of Fiscal Year 2025 including transportation, facilities, information technology, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, emergency management, and financial services.


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