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What Can $7,789,623 Buy in New York City?

| 2 Comments
price%20is%20right.jpg
A) 3,894,812 subway rides
B) 15,579 pairs of Prada heels
C) 1812 hours with the Emperors VIP Club
D) 315 years of education at the Brearley School
E) 18 staff for the New York City Department of Education's Division of Assessment and Accountability

On page 446 of New York City's FY09 budget, we learn that the Division of Assessment and Accountability is budgeted at $8,287,282. $7,789,623 will buy you 18 staff - that's $432,757 per person!

The irony of NYC's selective attention to budgeting issues? Priceless.

Update: NYC Parents dishes the goods on Bloomberg's $4.5 million dollar slush fund, which he used to reward city council members.

Update II: NYC DOE's Press Secretary David Cantor posted the following correction to the NYC education news listserve:

The actual headcount in the DOE's Office of Accountability is 79, not 18. The actual budget for salaries is $6.7 million, not $8.3 million. The correct headcount figure is reflected in the most recent DOE Financial Status Report, located online here on page 13. The correct budget figure will appear in the next iteration of the City budget. Sorry for the confusion.

As skoolboy said, "The fact that the people responsible for assessment can't put together an intelligible budget should give us great confidence about the assessment data they report."
2 Comments

Thank heavens NYC runs such a tight ship administratively wihout a trace of bureaucratic bloat and overpaid adminsistrators. Oh wait that's not right, this is just business as usual i NYC in the excess and bloat department. Chump change, if anything. And look what chump chane will buy. Imagine if you did the same thing with the rest of NYC's wasteful administration, you could probably educate half the east coast.

The budgets of organizations inscribe their priorities. But budgeting is a complicated process, and budget categories may not do a very good job of conveying the underlying values, or explaining why numbers show up in one line vs. another. For this reason, I'd like to give the DOE the benefit of the doubt. But they make it so hard!

The modified FY 07 budget for the Division of Accountability and Assessment showed 18 staff budgeted at $648K, for about $36K per person. That seems too low. The adopted FY 08 budget added $4M to the budget for these 18 full-time, full-year salaried positions, which comes to $258K per person. That's obviously too high, and it looks like a budgeting mistake. The modified FY 08 budget added another $3.1M, yielding $433K per person, and the FY 09 budget is level-funded, retaining the $433K per full-time, full-year salaried position. No increase from FY 08 to FY 09! What great management controls!

If you'll pardon me for going on about this:
The modified FY 07 budget and adopted FY 08 budget also had budget lines of $2,040 for telephone and other communications, and $2,000 for non-overnight travel (presumably within the five boroughs of NYC). But then the budget was modified, and all of a sudden there was $814K for telephone and other communications, and $478K for nonovernight travel -- amounting to $45K per person for telephone and other communication, and $26K per person for nonovernight travel. And these were the numbers that are in the FY 09 budget as well. $45K per person for telephone and other communcation -- are these the diamond-encrusted Blackberries?

So: The fact that the people responsible for assessment can't put together an intelligible budget should give us great confidence about the assessment data they report. And the fact that budgets get modified behind the scenes in fairly dramatic ways is troubling to me. Maybe there's a simple (or not so simple) explanation for all this -- but it's the DOE's responsibility to make the budgetary information accessible, transparent and understandable, and the available documents don't do the job.

Perhaps David Cantor is lurking and can clue us in.

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