The Alexandria City Public School system seems to have a daunting task in front of it when it comes to addressing the 2010 budget. An enrollment figure higher than expected compounded with new student achievement initiatives and a wallowing economy delivers unique problems this budget season.
There is also the $10.5 million budget gap with which the city is dealing. Luckily for the schools, they have not yet been asked to make any cuts. Luckily for the city, when Superintendent Morton Sherman accompanied the City Council on their retreat, he presented a budget outline with no unexpected additions.
While it is unclear how the city or its school system will emerge from the effects of the current economy, what is certain is that it will take collaboration and mutual respect of both the citys and the schools respective budget issues.
We understand and appreciate the challenges the city is facing and I dont think this is the time for us to go in with unreasonable expectations, School Board Chairwoman Yvonne Folkerts said. So we are working closely with them, we appreciate where they are, and were trying to make sure that the community knows that were trying to the best of our ability to be good stewards of tax dollars.
While the citys budget gap lingers, the school system, which accounts for about 31 percent of the citys general fund, is expecting less revenue from the state in the upcoming year, adding to the dour outlook.
There are also more students enrolled in ACPS this year than projected 703 new pupils as of November 6.
But perhaps the most overt change affecting this budget year is the implementation of the International Baccalaureate program. The internationally focused education plan is currently in its premature stages of existence in the school system, and the questions surrounding the budget arent likely to sway the IBs implementation nor other goals laid out by the School Board earlier this year.
Tough budget years shouldnt necessarily be roadblocks to progress, Folkerts said. The Board, I thought, did a terrific thing to pass these goals and I thought the superintendent is very confident that we can find the resources necessary to meet these goals and make them happen this year.
I think it just requires all of us to work together and show the community that even in tough budget years we can move student achievement forward. Its just a matter of balancing; its a matter of going into the budget and finding efficiencies.
The School Board has not yet seen the superintendents intended budget, but Folkerts said Sherman has put in hours and hours attempting to balance it. The School Board will unveil a budget calendar depicting a timeline on Monday, and the City Council will release guidelines the following Wednesday at its legislative meeting. The Council and city staff will then hold a joint session with the School Board and superintendent to flesh out a budget plan.
The superintendent will present to us a budget that hopefully shows collaboration with the city and meets the new goals and needs that we have with the increased number of students, Folkerts said. [City officials] know that we already have our challenges from state revenue so I think theyre already showing us cooperation which we need to in turn show to them.
The Office of the City Manager and city budget officials have expressed understanding of the schools situations in the past, reasoning that ACPS would not be hit by the round of cuts proposed recently.
It is an interesting year to have these goals and extra students and declining budgets, Folkerts said. But it is great that we work on student achievement, and thats our job and thats our number one thing we have to do.