Figures may speak for themselves -- but sometimes you have to listen very carefully to understand what budget figures are saying.
Take the city's education budget, for example.
Back in January, school officials proposed a budget of $551.2 million for fiscal 1992.
The Schmoke administration ultimately cut the school department's budget request, leaving a total of -- $722.6 million.
The arithmetic seems wacky, but the Board of Estimates yesterday received a $722.6 million school budget that had been slashed by the administration and still wound up higher than the original request made in January.
Edward Gallagher, the city's budget chief, says the $722.6 million is purely the result of accounting methods used by the city in its budget, not an actual increase in the school department's spending authority.
In terms of real dollars, the actual school budget is $540.4 million, according to city officials.
"That $722.6 million is overstated, because there's a double-counting in there," explained Gallagher.
The $722.6 million reflects the city's local share of aid to education being counted twice, said Gallagher.
And that's not a mistake, just a quirk of accounting. Gallagher explains it this way:
For accounting purposes, the city's share of aid to the schools is counted once when $182 million in general fund revenue is "paid" to the education fund where it is set aside for the schools. The same money is counted again as part of the education fund's spending authority.
Eliminate the double-counting, and you have a true picture of the school budget for the coming year -- $540.4 million.