Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley has proposed the leanest Operating Budget the school division has faced in years. The budget is in line with the City’s requests for austerity in 2018 while maintaining the overall effectiveness of schools and supporting student achievement.
The budget factors in additional funding needed to cover a 2.8 percent projected increase in enrollment in FY 2018, which necessitates 22 new positions across the division, including teaching staff and additional instructional supports. The budget adds a school climate specialist to focus on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and the implementation of Restorative Practices. If the proposed budget is fully funded, class sizes will remain the same.
The budget also factors in a $2.7 million State mandated increase in Virginia Retirement System payments for staff, a five percent increase in healthcare premiums and a step increase in order for Alexandria to remain competitive across the Metropolitan area. The budget aims to maintain a broad spectrum of challenging academic opportunities for all students and to attract and retain high-quality teaching staff, while ensuring ACPS’ aging facilities are maintained in line with the goals of the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan.
The Operating Budget of $261.8 million is a 3.3 percent increase over last year’s budget – a lower percentage rate increase than either of the last two years, despite a projected increase of 419 students in 2018. In addition, the percentages of students requiring differentiated supports and services such as English Learners (31.1 percent) and students requiring specialized instruction (11.3 percent) continue to rise. A total of 59 percent of all ACPS students are eligible for the Free and Reduced Price Meal program.
Without an increase in the per-pupil allocation, the budget will have a $9.6 million gap, which will undoubtedly have an impact in the classroom. The funding gap prior to department reductions and the use of reserves was $16.1 million. With the use of $5 million of Fund Balance and department reductions, there remains a $9.6 million funding gap. If ACPS is funded at the same per-pupil allocation level as last year with the enrollment increases factored in, then the funding gap is still $6.6 million.
This is a lean and fiscally responsible budget to match the City’s funding expectations. It is designed to maintain current initiatives at a time when the City is faced with fiscal challenges. Prior to the release of this budget, we have taken a number of steps to close the funding gap including a two percent reduction in Central Office departments. Any further cuts in funding will undoubtedly impact the operational effectiveness of schools and have a direct impact on the delivery of instruction and student supports. This is something that we must avoid at all costs,” said Superintendent Crawley.
Despite an overall inflation rate of 15.7 percent over the last ten years, the per-pupil allocation has decreased by 11 percent over the same period. If the City allocation per pupil had increased in line with inflation during those years, the current per-pupil allocation would be at $17,508. Instead, it is currently $13,503, $121 dollars per pupil less than in FY 2014 and $32 per pupil less than FY 2015. Alexandria City Public Schools is proposing the per-pupil allocation be raised to $13,924 for FY 2018.
The budget calls for a study of ACPS salary scales compared to market rates across the region over the course of the next year, so that ACPS can retain the ability to attract and retain highly-qualified staff in future budgets.
The City Manager announces his proposed budget on February 21, of which the schools’ funding is a part. The public can send their comments via the budget page on the ACPS website or to the Superintendent at email@example.com. Alternatively please contact the Budget Advisory Committee. ACPS has two scheduled budget hearings held during School Board meetings on January 19 and February 16.