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The Right Note: Annual Math Lesson for APS

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Arlington School Superintendent Patrick Murphy made news this week by proposing his “first” budget in excess of $20,000 per student. Except it is not.

The Fiscal Year 2019 APS adopted budget was $640.1 million. So, per student cost for the current year is $23,331 based on an enrollment of 27,436 (which was nearly 600 students less than the initial enrollment projection).

The proposed Fiscal Year 2020 APS budget is $671.6 million. Enrollment for the year is projected to be 28,495. So, per student cost is projected to be $23,569 not the $20,012 reported by Murphy. This per student cost is expected to rise if enrollment projections are once again higher than actual.

To put it another way, the difference of $3,557 per student at 28,495 students is $101.4 million. That means if the per student cost were actually $20,012, the total school budget would be $570.2 million, not $671.6 million. Undoubtedly, there is a reason APS annually claims the per student cost is regularly $3,500 less than the actual cost. However, they never publicly explain the substantial discrepancy which has now reached $101.4 million in the overall budget.

Murphy also claims he has trimmed the budget by $10.1 million. The projected budget grew by 4.9 percent over last year, so it would have grown by 6.4 percent without the “reductions.”

And how does our per student spending compare to our neighboring jurisdictions? Using Murphy’s math, we are currently spending $804 more than Falls Church, $1,742 more than Alexandria and $3,251 more than Fairfax County.

Also this week, a new study has found that Arlington is the most politically intolerant counties in America. And it is the Democrats who are more likely to be dismissive of Republicans, not the other way around.

For years, Democrat candidates for office have talked about the importance of an inclusive and diverse community. We now know what we suspected for a long time. That philosophy applies to everything except for diversity of political thought.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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