School Board OKs Budget Reduction

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Following a presentation from ACPS executive staff, the Alexandria School Board voted 8-1 to reduce the requested city appropriation for its FY 2010 Budget by an additional $890,155.

The move allows the schools to meet the citys recommended 2 percent decrease in funding from the previous fiscal year. Prior to the vote at the April 16 meeting, the ACPS budget included a 1.5 percent decrease made possible by reallocating nearly $20 million in existing funds.

If we look at the total pool of money, nothing is lost from the budget that you had approved and the programs that you had approved in that budget, ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman told board members at the April 16 meeting. The funding source differs, but I think thats appropriate.
Board member Scott Newsham said that the motion to lower the citys school funding for the next year should be thought of more along the lines of teamwork rather than just giving in to the citys recommendation.

All the indications are that the council isnt even considering anything other than a 2 percent reduction, Newsham said. Were not giving up anything, were just acknowledging the realities of what the economy is and sending a signal to the council and the city that were aware of that and we can work with that.

The reduction in the citys appropriation is made possible by the $8.2 million in stimulus funds coming to ACPS over the next two years and a $700,000 increase in funds coming from the state, according to a memo.

Board members expressed concern that a trend of compromise in this way is not necessarily sustainable and also raised questions about whether or not the city might ask for additional cuts as has happened in some neighboring jurisdictions.

Its difficult to argue that were not in a position to meet this arbitrary target of 2 percent, board member Arthur Peabody said. On the other hand, we need to send the message clearly that we arent going to be in a position to do this every year This isnt an annual thing that is automatic.

[The City Council] knows that weve got this extra money, which would be a reason why we could do this without hurting the children, board member Ronnie Campbell said. But, theres always that but, that you never know if they are going to come back and say, You do have a lot of money coming in, maybe 2.5 [percent] would help us out a little more.

Additional Funds Realized In FY 2009 Budget Revisions

The school systems annual, ongoing process of budget revisions has found increases in federal, state and local revenue, lapsed salary savings and benefits savings, in addition to an increase in the budgets beginning balance.

According to a memo, funding from the state is expected to be $1.5 million greater than the original budget had planned for because of the significant increases in ACPS enrollment.

On the flip side, due to adjustments in sales tax revenue through the end of March, the schools are expecting $980,789 less than had been originally budgeted.

All totaled, the increases in revenue and decreases in expenditures both worth more than $1 million mean that $2.9 million will carry over from the end of FY 2009 to the FY2011 budget, with the potential for more savings through a hiring chill for positions that are not deemed critical to instruction, the memo said.

Sherman Presents Draft Of Action Plan

Introducing the Phase One draft of the ACPS Action Plan the articulated steps to carry out the goals set forth in the schools new Strategic Plan in light of the compelling historical data and evidence before us, Superintendent Morton Sherman outlined several core changes for the system.

Sherman cited the data on graduation and dropout rates in Alexandria schools and couched the proposal because, based on the 11.1 percent dropout rate, the school system could have more than 1,000 students in the process of dropping out.

Most notably, Sherman proposed advancements in pre-kindergarten education and coordination, turning Jefferson-Houston Elementary School into a K-8 school, creating a handful of smaller schools within each of the citys two middle schools, implementing the Baldridge program throughout the school system to bolster and standardize accountability, and exploring a pay for performance program for school ACPS administrators.

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