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Proposed School Budget Maintains Class Sizes

by ARLnow.com — March 1, 2013 at 3:50 pm 1,344 25 Comments

Dr. Patrick Murphy presents his proposed school budget to reporters(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s recommended FY 2014 budget would keep class sizes steady, would add new school buses and would provide for merit pay increases for school employees, despite a $23.5 million budget shortfall.

Murphy formally unveiled his budget Thursday night at a budget work session with the School Board.

To help close the gap, Murphy’s budget takes advantage of $20.2 million worth of surplus and reserve funds from previous years, and “efficiencies” in custodial staffing, the teen parenting program and gifted teachers, among other programs.

In all, $411.1 million of the $520.4 million budget comes from county tax revenue. Aside from the $20.2 million “carry forward” and $17.6 million in fees, the rest — about 13.3 percent of the budget — comes from federal and state sources.

The budget allocates an additional $10 million in staffing, materials and facilities costs for the nearly 1,000 additional students expected to be enrolled next year. That includes $1.9 million for new trailer classrooms.

The budget also provides $7.2 million for merit-based raises for teachers and other employees. Of that, about $446,000  will come from the state, under a plan to supposedly provide 2 percent raises for Virginia teachers. Of those staff members receiving raises, the increase in pay will average about 3 percent, APS said in a budget briefing for the media.

By maintaining the current class size levels while accounting for the rapid enrollment growth, Murphy says the budget fulfills the school system’s goal of putting students first.

“This budget is a prudent and targeted effort to maintain APS quality and the education that our community values,” Murphy said in a statement. “This budget firmly commits to our students by maintaining current class sizes and to our staff by including a compensation increase, the first step increase in two years.”

APS plans to purchase and staff 6 additional school buses this year. That should prevent another round of controversial bus service adjustment.

The budget also provides for a full-time residency verification specialist. Murphy also proposed the position last year, but it did not make it into the School Board’s final budget. Currently, APS only employs a part-time residency verification specialist for the entire 22,613 student school system.

Murphy said a full-time residency verification specialist could help identify students who are attending Arlington Public Schools but whose parents don’t live here.

“With the growing enrollment we have, we need to make sure we’re serving our kids here in Arlington,” he said. “I think there’s a concern that people are attracted to Arlington Public Schools. We need to monitor that.”

Other additions in this year’s budget include a new security coordinator, technology upgrades, athletic trainer who specialize in concussion management, and dropout prevention coordinators.

The “efficiencies and reductions” — including cuts in custodians, high school gifted teachers, the teen parenting program, and administration — will eliminate 61 positions and save $7.8 million. With the school system continuing to grow and hire — some 300 teachers were hired last year — Murphy says those impacted by the cuts will be reassigned elsewhere in APS, not laid off.

With Murphy’s proposed budget, the per-pupil cost in Arlington will rise from $18,675 to $18,709, although that could drop to $18,405 if the School Board elects not to use one if its reserve funds.

The School Board will adopt the final FY 2014 budget on May 2. Between now and then, APS will hold a number of budget work session and public hearings.

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  • CreepingRed

    I like Dr. Murphy, a professional that provides stark contrast to the flaky, wash and wear types thankfully on their way out. Thanks for being an even keel on the USS Arlington.

    • QTR

      Agree. Seems like a real smart guy.

      • Alex an Dria

        He has very little style. I hope he uses the raise he gave himself to purchase a new suit and some better ties. They only unfroze the step increase for teachers. Hundreds of teachers will see no pay increase at all because when they initially stopped the step increases 6 years ago some teachers had 2-4 years of wait time until their next raise. This affects the most experienced teachers in the county. Some of the most experienced teachers will go almost 10 years before seeing an increase in their salaries. Who would stay in a job that paid the same wage for 10 years? No bonus, nothing. Bad job Arlington!

        • ph7

          How about a compromise. We’ll agree to pay for a new suit and tie, and hold the line on the teacher salaries.

          • drax

            I’d rather have well-paid teachers teaching my kids with a boss with a bad tie, thanks.

        • JimPB

          Assertion: “… the raise he gave himself….”
          Fact: The Superintendent’s pay is set by the school board.

          • Alex an Dria

            who do you think runs the school board? It is Emma V-S, and she is the biggest Murphy crony there. Trust me, Murphy runs the board!

          • Guest

            EVS is an ACB patsy, heard her mumble at the recapitalization meeting “Chris Zimmerman wants…“ Murphy is here to clean up the inefficiencies but ACB wants to keep things run into the ground.

        • Hank

          If you don’t like it, leave. See what you can do on the outside. Make your own luck.

    • South Awwlington

      I agree. I have first hand knowledge of bad superintendents. Arlington does not have a bad superintendent.

    • Louise

      Huh? Who has been flaky?

    • Disagree…

      He is not a professional in the way he interacts… he is a politician to the public and a bully to employees. Knows little about education and less about how to deal with people. Does not look people in the eye… literally… and promises whatever is in his best interest. Uses consultants to “advise” him at every turn to a great cost to the school system. Hope that someone on the Board realizes that some of their budget should be set aside to buy this guy out, cut their loses, and get in someone who actually understands the complexity of teaching and learning.

  • Facts Rule

    Bizarre world: The school’s come up with their budget AFTER the County manager already set a proposed budget for schools — a budget that is devoid of reasoning or analysis and is made via a percentage.

    In a normal world, the schools would develop a budget and submit it to the County Board for approval (or modification). In Arlington, however, the school budget is a set percentage of County revenue whether or not the schools need that much money or need more money.

    County Board’s FY 2014 Budget Guidance: “Maintain the County/School revenue sharing allocation reflected in the FY 2013 budget (54.2 % County / 45.8% Schools) which is consistent with existing County Board guidance.”

    As long as Virginia provides that the County Board raise revenue for schools, then the County Board needs to do its job and make decisions about what amount of money the schools need. (The School Board should be submitting its reasoned request BEFORE the County Board takes up the budget.) Setting the school’s budget based on a percentage of total revenue is abdicating responsibility and is devoid of good governance.

    • bender

      You make a good point that the school budget should be based on actual needs and not merely arbitrarily adopting a certain percentage.

      But — they should decide how much to spend only AFTER determining how much money there is available, and not the other way around as is usually the case.

    • Athena22

      the schools come up with a budget that is within a couple percent of last year’s budget. The county provides initial guidance in the fall about expected revenues and the amount they expect to be able to give the schools, the schools spend a few months developing a budget, it is presented in late February, they spend another month and a half discussing the schools budget publicly while the county discusses its budget publicly, then everyone finalizes their budgets and the county board sets the tax rate. This is not “devoid of reasoning or analysis,” this is how municipalities prepare budgets. Would you rather the school had its own taxing authority? Some districts do that.

  • novasteve

    If they scaled back the swimming pool by 31% they wouldn’t have a budget shortfall.

    • drax

      I don’t want to be 31% closer to you in the water.

    • speonjosh

      How is that?

      • drax

        The deep end would be 3 feet?

  • Duncan

    So, the school system wisely had $20million in surplus sitting around for contingencies. The board could learn something from them.

    • drax

      I recall someone here saying Virginia doesn’t allow that. Which is stupid, but it’s Virginia, so that’s normal.

  • Guest

    Doing more with less wouldnt seem so bad if the concept wasn’t cast upon the image of the monopoly guy fighting to ding his trolley bell on the way to work.

  • Guest

    The flakes running Arlington Mill…

  • Arlington Teacher

    Dr. Murphy seems to avoid mentioning that he is cutting all high school gifted instructional faculty, eliminating special education assistants and many custodial positions, as well as removing those who work with teen parents. With cuts like this, teachers will NEED the “pay raises” that are supposedly coming – there is an increasing burden on what the “average” teacher is asked to cover as part of their regular job. I, as a content educator with a masters degree, have no technical qualifications to run a special education classroom, clean the halls, or teach teens to parent….come on, Murphy.

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