The Alexandria City School Board has voted to approve a Combined Funds Budget that is slightly higher than the Interim Superintendent’s Adjusted Proposed Budget, with the goal of restoring the request for textbooks and funding for the implementation of recommendations expected from the specialized instruction evaluation.
The increase supports the need for reading textbooks for grades three through five, in addition to the request for K-2 textbooks, and the implementation of recommendations from the specialized instruction evaluation. Additional funding has been allocated to bring the rugby program into line with other sports by providing a stipend for the coaches and assistant coaches. The budget also includes funding for school improvement positions at elementary schools and expansion of the Young Scholars program.
This week, the City Manager recommended funding the requested City Appropriation in the Interim Superintendent’s original Proposed Budget of $223.8 million in full. The School Board request will take the total additional request to $1.1 million. Adding this $1.1 million will require City Council action during their add/delete process. The requested City Appropriation represents 83 percent of the Operating Fund or $224.9 million.
“This is a budget that is explicitly focused on the classroom. We know teachers need supports and current materials in order to teach at their best every day. We also want to ensure we have funding available to implement recommendations from the evaluation of our Specialized Instruction program when it’s completed in the fall. We need to fully fund these areas in order to continue to work towards excellence and that is what we will be asking City Council to do,” said School Board Chair Ramee Gentry.
Nearly all of the additional costs in the operating fund portion of the budget are enrollment driven. These include additional teachers to serve ACPS’ student population, which has grown by 49 percent over the past 11 years. They also include updating textbooks — some of which have not been updated since 2004. The additional funds also include the costs of staff and learning materials needed to open the new Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School in the West End and for adding grade seven at the new Patrick Henry School. Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School is set to open in fall 2018, while the new Patrick Henry building will open in early 2019.
The biggest cost increases are attributed to the national upward trend in the cost of healthcare. Mandated healthcare increases add $4.7 million to the budget next school year. The Approved Combined Funds Budget also includes a step increase for staff, so ACPS can stay competitive in the northern Virginia region. The recommendation includes a change to the salary scales, which will make our starting salaries higher for those joining us as first year teachers and provides a step for those teachers with the most experience. The ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan focuses on attracting and retaining exemplary staff so that ACPS students continue to receive the highest level of education.
All Central Office-based departments — except the Educational Facilities Department, which has two new schools to manage next year — reduced their non-personnel budgets by at least five percent across the board. Transportation overtime has also been reduced by $250,000 next school year. The $176,000 Partners in Education (PIE) grant will be discontinued next year.
The Approved Combined Funds Budget includes the Operating Fund, Grants and Special Projects Fund and the School Nutrition Fund totaling $299.3 million. The Operating Fund, which funds the operational costs of the school division, accounts for $276.5 million.
The City’s budget public hearing will take place on March 12 at 4 p.m. at City Hall.