The School Reform commission today approved a lump-sum budget that will allow it to spend $3.1 billion next school year.

The district anticipates $244 million in federal stimulus money, which along with an increase in state aid will offset a loss in local tax revenue.

In presenting the first formal look at the district's finance sheets for next year, Chief Business Officer Michael Masch said the district will have $2.367 billion in revenues and an additional $5.3 million surplus carried over from this year. Adding in federal and state grants, the district will hit the $3 billion mark for the first time.

The commission will approve a preliminary operating budget for 2009-10 next month, and must have its final budget in place by May.

Today, the commission also approved the hiring of Thomas Darden as the new chief of staff for Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

Darden, a former venture capitalist, is a fellow in the Broad Superintendents' Academy. He will be paid $180,000 and replaces Shawn Crowder, who has accepted another position in the district.

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or