Saturday, November 8, 2008

Who did the math? Joel Klein and William Thompson can't figure out budget spat

Saturday, November 8th 2008, 2:16 AM

It just doesn't add up.

City Controller William Thompson got into a war of addition with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein this week, accusing him of inflating figures on education budget savings.

But Klein's rebuttal letter - which charged the controller's findings are "riddled with errors" - contained a major miscalculation.

READ: THOMPSON'S LETTER TO KLEIN

"If someone uses 100,000 gallons of gas at a price of $3.50 and then cuts back to 900,000 gallons, that is a real savings even if the cost of gas goes up to $4," Klein wrote, figuring the price rises to $360,000, not $400,000.

The only problem is, by Klein's numbers, the price would actually go up to $3.6million.

"Perhaps we should rush a calculator over to the chancellor's office," quipped controller spokesman Jeff Simmons.

READ: KLEIN'S LETTER TO THOMPSON

Klein's office blamed the mistake on poor proofreading, admitting the figure should have been 90,000 gallons of gas instead of 900,000.

The two offices have had a longstanding feud over reported education savings. Thompson has called for the agency to open all its books.

His latest charge is the Education Department still can't demonstrate how it saved $250 million in bureaucratic bloat five years ago.

At best, the agency saved $140 million, Thompson says. The Independent Budget Office pegged the savings at $221 million.

Klein's office also claimed it trimmed $290 million off the administration last year, but the controller's review of those numbers finds only $160 million worth of savings.

"We are very concerned about this," said Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm. "We are anxious to meet with his staff to rectify this."

The chancellor, who received the letter Thursday and faxed an immediate reply, said Thompson misunderstood the numbers and doesn't account for inflation. Thompson isn't buying it.

"Exaggerated claims undermine the department's credibility and the withdrawal of critical information - such as the cessation of school-based expenditure reports - limits transparency and accountability," Thompson said.

klucadamo@nydailynews.com

Post a Comment