Community News Schools — 12 March 2010

Last years respite came from across the Potomac in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This year, the temporary budget relief for Alexandria City Public Schools blows north from Richmond.

A drop in the required funding for the state employees retirement program about $2.3 million less in expenses allowed the citys School Board last Thursday to unanimously adopt a $201.1 million budget for the 2011 fiscal year that begins July 1.

Thursdays action called for reducing the funding requested of the city by $672,872 to bring it in line with the 2 percent increase on the current years resources offered in City Manager Jim Hartmanns budget proposal.

The financial plan, compared to a year ago, features no significant cost-cutting measures and fewer overall changes from the budget Superintendent Morton Sherman unveiled in January, according to budget documents.

School Board Chair Yvonne Folkerts attributed the relatively sparse changes to good collaboration with Sherman on what the Board wanted.

I think the superintendent delivered a budget that put us at a very good starting point, Folkerts said.

The adopted budget appeases parent and teacher concerns about cutting the reading teacher position at each of the 13 elementary schools by reinstating it as a part-time position at each school.

After receiving consistent, considerable attention during the Boards public hearings in previous weeks, the agreed-upon solution adds nearly $500,000 to expenditures, according to budget documents.

Board member Marc Williams praised the budget for its attention to special education, middle schools and English language learner programming, which were not directly affected by the changes adopted Thursday.

While adding a total of nine positions to Shermans original January 21 pitch, the Boards budget also softens the blow of cost-sharing efforts for employees. Thursdays decision reduced employee share of their supplemental retirement program from 1 percent to a half of a percent, saving teachers and staff nearly $600,000.

For others in the school community, the Boards construction plans for the next year also adopted Thursday provide a remedy several years in the making.

At last, money is allocated for constructing a new turf field and track with lights on the Francis C. Hammond Middle School Campus.

The project, not slated to begin until the summer of 2011, will cost roughly $1.6 million, according to budget documents, and became possible after the Board realized it had more than a million dollars available from a previously settled legal matter at the school stemming from construction work in the gymnasium. 

Thats pretty exciting when you think about it because I know there were some of us that were really pushing to see the Hammond field picked for city improvements in 2010, Folkerts said. Its just really, really needed for that school.

Among the other late additions to the budget was a $15,000 allocation to re-register one grade level and address issues with students illegally attending ACPS from other jurisdictions, according to budget documents.

The ACPS budget will be finalized later this spring based on any changes in city and state spending plans.

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Alexandria Times Staff

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