This isn’t the first time I’ve admitted to not understanding school district finances. I’m not trying to pick on anyone; this stuff just doesn’t make sense to me.

Am I alone?

I’ve stripped out all the incidental stuff from today’s newspaper article and left only the 10 statements referencing money to help me (us?) understand what’s going on. Below the statement is my guess of what they’re talking about.

  1. District was facing a $26.5 million structural deficit

I don’t know what a structural deficit is. Jump to Line #8 for a possible answer.



2.   District was facing a negative fund balance of $50 million at the end of 2015

I don’t know what a negative fund balance is.


3.  Governor Wolf sent $12 million to the district

The state paid $4.3 million for one-time debt service.

The state paid $1.7 million in bills for the current school year to charter schools

Remember this number…

$17 million = $12.0 + $4.3 + $1.7



4.  District revenues this year is $126.6 million

I always thought revenue is money that’s coming in. In this case I guess it’s equivalent to the annual school budget.



5. Structural deficit should be reduced to $1.3 million for the year

Compared to Line #1, that’s a $24.2 million dollar reduction. I don’t know how we got there, but it sounds good.



6. Expected negative fund balance at he beginning of next school year has dropped from $24.3 million to $7.3 million

$24.3 – $7.3 =  $17 million. This may be the number from Line #3.



7. Borrowing will still be needed to eliminate that deficit

I think the deficit they’re talking about is the negative fund of $7.3 million from Line #6. Or it could be the debt from Line #1, or the negative fund from Line #2, or the calculation from Line #8, or all of the above.



8. The district received $48 million in state subsidies so far, but is not expected to receive an additional $51 million until the state budget is approved

I guess, in addition to the $17 million from Line #3, we’ve received $48 million earlier and will receive $51 million later.

From Line #8: $51 + $48 = $99 million

From Line #4: $126.6 – $99 = $27.6 million

That number is awfully close to the structural deficit in Line #1 but I don’t know if they’re related.



9. The district can continue operations through March

I understand that line.



10. Another $1.2 million owed to charters .

Another 6 million is still owed to vendors.

$7.2 million is still owed. But the $51 million we’re getting later should cover that, I guess.


The only part I really understand is the judge suggesting that the Chester School District, the Chester Charter schools, and consulting firm Public Financial Management, need to figure out by Feb 23 where they stand on reducing the substantial shortfall, the charter payments, and the vendor payments.

Click to read the full article on Chester School District finances. See if it makes sense to you.