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IBO: Changes to teacher residency rules could net city millions

Fewer parent coordinators and keeping teachers inside city zip codes are two ways a budget watchdog says the city can save costs and raise revenue. (Via Flickr Creative Commons.)

Fewer parent coordinators and keeping teachers inside city zip codes are two ways a budget watchdog says the city can save costs and raise revenue. (Via Flickr Creative Commons.)

The Independent Budget Office released an unusually early set of cost-cutting ideas today, including a plan for co-located schools to share staff members and changes to where new teachers would be allowed to live.

The report, which the agency typically releases in the spring to influence budget debates, is a list of ways for the city to potentially cut costs or raise cash. Most of the report’s education ideas have been proposed before, including eliminating principal performance bonuses (to save $6 million) and eliminating parent coordinators altogether (to save $91 million).

New this year is the proposal for schools in the same building to share a single parent coordinator and a secretary, which the IBO estimates would save the Department of Education $50 million next year.

Another new proposal could inspire even more controversy: stricter residency requirements for new DOE employees. Currently, most city employees must live in the city for two years and then can move to six surrounding New York counties and are taxed an additional amount equivalent to city taxes. DOE employees have been exempt from both requirements, but changing that for new hires would bring in $3 million next year and increase over time as older teachers retire, according to the IBO.

IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky called the existing exemption a “glitch” in the system, and said the idea to change it came from within the agency. “It was just discrepancy that we were aware of, so we’re putting it out there,” he said.

But that could also hurt recruitment, as the report notes, and could “create an undeserved financial burden for affected personnel, many of whom are paid less than similarly skilled counterparts in the private sector or the more affluent suburbs.” It would also require changes in state law.

Today’s report also attaches updated price tags to a few of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s stated education priorities. A one-year moratorium on opening new schools—a possible result of de Blasio’s plan to pause school co-locations and closures—would save the city $13.5 million, according to the IBO.

De Blasio has also said he plans to charge charter schools rent to operate in public space, and the IBO estimates doing so would bring the city $92 million next year. That’s up from its $85 million estimate in May, due to the growing number of students in charter schools across the city.

De Blasio has said he would charge charter operators on a sliding scale, which would lead to different figures than the IBO’s estimates, which are based on charging charter schools rent based on a per-pupil fee of $2,320.

The budget watchdog’s estimates around charter rent has been disputed by analysts who say they fail to account for future costs tied to pension and healthcare benefits for city teachers.

“If you do the math that includes what goes on with the city’s credit card, then [charter schools] are clearly cheaper because they’re not accumulating pension and healthcare,” said Jonathan Trichter, who co-authored a paper that determined co-located charters cost $3,000 less per student.

Though the city has been releasing data this week to help bookend Mayor Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure, Turetsky said the early report was unrelated to the mayoral transition, and that the reports will come out in the fall for the foreseeable future.

“Rationally speaking, for most New Yorkers who think about the budget, this is really getting starting now,” Turetsky said, noting that the mayor is the one official the IBO does not serve.

The full report is embedded below. Here is a list of all of the schools-related suggestions, with new items starred:

  • Eliminate Public Funding of Transportation For Private School Students $47 million
  • End the Department of Education’s Financial Role as FIT’s Local Sponsor $45 million
  • Eliminate Elementary and Middle Summer School Program $22 million
  • Eliminate Performance Bonus for Principals and Assistant Principals $6 million
  • Eliminate Youth Connect $255 thousand
  • Impose a One-Year Hiatus on the Creation of New Small Schools $14 million
  • *Share One Parent Coordinator and General Secretary Among Co-located Schools $50 million
  • Eliminate City Dollars and Contracts for Excellence Funds for Teacher Coaches $27 million
  • Eliminate Hiring Exception for New Schools $12 million
  • Eliminate the 20-Minute “Banking Time” For Certain Education Department Staff $1 million
  • Eliminate the Parent Coordinator Position $91 million
  • Encourage Classroom Teachers to Serve Jury Duty During Noninstructional Summer Months $2 million
  • Institute Time Limits for Excessed Teachers In the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool $73 million
  • *Eliminate School Bus Operation Deduction $1 million
  • *Require All New Education Department Staff to Meet Same Residency and Tax Rules as Other City Workers $3 million
  • Charge Rent to Charter Schools in Shared Facilities $92 million

IBO Fall Options 2013