School Board Finalizes Budget – Uses for stimulus funds becoming more detailed, but not yet set in stone


After more than three months of debate, numerous revisions and an influx of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funding, the School Board has approved the city schools budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The official total for the citys schools for the year beginning July 1 rings in at $197.5 million, a 0.7 percent decrease from the current years budget, according to budget documents.
Aside from the anticipated $4 million allotment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the overall budget was little changed from the original document approved in February.

On the whole, the Board increased spending by $742,890 from the February plan, made possible by a $1.5 million increase in state revenue because of greater student enrollment.

That increase helped offset a move made earlier this month, when the School Board authorized cutting its funding request from the city by roughly $890,000 to keep in line with City Councils own approval of the schools budget.

Among the expenditure increases are an additional two contract days for 192-day teachers and paraprofessionals, according to budget documents, effectively increasing their annual pay.

The plan calls for more than 12 new elementary school homeroom and physical education teachers, and two sixth-grade teaching positions at Jefferson-Houston School for Arts and Academics required to implement the K-8 school model at that campus.

As part of the approved spending plan for school construction, funds are set aside to revamp the gym at James K. Polk Elementary School at a cost of $1.3 million, infrastructure renovations at John Adams Elementary School of about $4.2 million and ongoing improvements to the Minnie Howard campus of T.C. Williams High School.

The work at Minnie Howard is a part of the schools greenovation and is in keeping with the boards strategic plan.

Further savings within the schools operating budget of about $150,000 are expected through a cooperative energy management contract, according to budget documents.

The Board spent little time debating the budget before approving it surely a product of its months of discussion. Instead, the bulk of the discussion about finances at last weeks meeting centered on proposed uses of stimulus funding.

As had been discussed previously, the stimulus funds coming from the state and federal governments end after the 2011 fiscal year, resulting in what the Board called a funding cliff.

In working with those funds and planning for the next two years and beyond, Superintendent Morton Sherman sees that as the wrong moniker for the situation.

I think the federal government did a disservice in calling the stimulus funding a cliff, Sherman said. Those funds are intended to create capital, to generate initiative, to stir the economy, to stir school districts to move forward.

Along this path, over the next year or two, were going to find that if we use these moneys well, we will learn that were doing some things better than other things, he said.

Wrapped up for now, the ACPS spending plan for the 2010 fiscal year will undergo revisions throughout the year to come, reconciling the approved spending with the actual spending.

The budgeting process for the year beginning July 1, 2010 begins next week with a public hearing on the FY 2011 budget scheduled for the boards June 4 meeting, according to the ACPS website.