School Budget Issues with City Council Discussion Tomorrow
ACPS got $1.23M from the state, outside of the regular school budget, to be used to increase teacher salaries with the hope it attracts more teachers to
the school system (we do rank high on the scale for teacher salaries in the area). However, the City Council is now voting on Monday to reduce the ACPS budget by the exact amount - $1.23M - that the school system received from the state. The state money comes with mandated step salary increases, but the state is only funding the salaries, not the attendant increase in costs for payroll taxes and benefits that are tied to the salaries. So ACPS will have to absorb the cost of the increased payroll taxes and benefits--a sort of unfunded mandate. If the city were not taking back the $1.23, there would be no problem. ACPS is likely to cover this shortage by dipping into pension reserves (not ideal but ACPS feels that it is being forced to do this).
Further details PTAC letters with Frank Fannon from PTAC Chair
Frank-thank you for your response, which I will share with my fellow ACPS parents. I do appreciate you stepping back on the additional cuts; however, it is bad enough that the City is taking back the $1.23 m. I have heard that Alexandria is the only local jurisdiction in the Commonwealth to take this step. ACPS will now be scrambling to identify additional funding to cover the payroll taxes and benefit costs associated with the mandatory step salary increase. We certainly cannot afford additional reductions. We need to stay competitive on salaries for our teachers.
I get that you are trying to send a message through the budget process and I understand that City Council and C over the mismanagement of the CIP funds. My kids' school playground has been unusable all year because of it--I am upset, too. However, the school administration uncovered the CIP problem, disclosed it, and fired nearly everyone in the whole department, from top to bottom. Seems like decisive corrective action to me. And at least all of this money was spent on ACPS projects, unlike the taxpayer money that was stolen by city employees in the past year! I really feel that our community has spent an inordinate amount of time on this CIP matter, which consisted of mismanagement and not malfeasance.
I am also aware that households with school-age children make up only 15% of the city population. That does not mean that only 15% of residents benefit from educating Alexandria's children and I really take issue with this implication. All of us benefit from an educated citizenry. As a person who has dedicated so much pe vice, I am sure you must realize this, so please, reconsider the implication of this rhetorical point which you raise repeatedly.
While I'm at it, I also want to mention that, if you think that we spend too large a percentage of our budget on the schools relative to the population, have should compare our expenditures (33%?) to those of our neighboring jurisdictions? Arlington, with a similar percentage of families with kids, spends 45% of its budget on its schools. Fairfax County--52.5% Prince William County 56.7%.
I understand that you have heard from constituents upset with ACPS. I can tell you that the voices that have been missing from the community discussion are those of the vast majority of parents who are pleased with the education their children are getting and too busy raising the future doctors, lawyers, engineers and business people of this city to let you know.
From Councilman Fannon
Thank you for your message and for your input on budget allocation for ACPS. I have talked with many teachers over the past several months and have received a great deal of feedback from other members of the community. There has been a tremendous amount of concern about the financial issues in the school system. The Council has received a lot of pressure on the school budget issue. Council has the authority to delegate money to the set school policy. The only control we have over this is to determine the amount of funding we provide to the board.
I support the children in our community, and the Council has been very generous over recent years by always funding requests made by the School Board. However, my concern this year is that basic financial controls are not in place. There needs to be more oversight on how the schools are spending money.
After the budget meeting on Monday night, I lowered my reduction to $290,000 and not $1.2 million. The Council funded the schools with $200,000 more than the School Board requested, and I proposed cutting this amount since the amount we allocated was already more than what they requested. The other $90,000 that I proposed in cuts would go toward hiring an additional budget analyst for the city that could improve oversight and monitoring of spending in the future so we can avoid some of the difficulties we have had over recent months with the schools' finances.
I hope that our schools will continue to improve, and my fiduciary duty on the Council is to make sure that tax dollars are spent wisely. Other departments in the city have made cuts in this economy, and I want to be fair to all taxpayers in addition to the school community. Over 85 percent of Alexandria households do not have children in the school system. Thanks again for your thoughts, and I look forward to budget approval on Monday.