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School Board Approves $670 Million Proposed Budget with $6 Million Gap

The Arlington School Board has advanced a $669,314,705 million proposed budget — a budget that features a gap of over $6 million.

The Board voted 4-0 to approve its proposal for the school system’s next fiscal year budget. One member, Barbara Kanninen, abstained. Final budget approval is set for May.

Voting stretched late into Thursday night as members weighed five amendments detailing how funds could be cut to reduce the $6.7 million budget shortfall.

Members approved four amendments that together shaved $1,163,330 off the budget by proposing to:

  • Eliminate an anonymous reporting hotline
  • Eliminate APS HR’s budget for computer replacements
  • Eliminate two Technology Support Positions, one Foreign Language in elementary schools position, one full time HR position, and two assistant director positions in assessment and transportation
  • Reduce funding for postage, evaluations, and clerical substitutes
  • Reduce printed report cards
  • Reduce Foreign Languages at Key School
  • Reduce travel reimbursements, and increase student parking fees

Another approved reduction was for the fund that provides employee service awards and special events — hours after the School Board celebrated 168 teachers in front of the dais for their decades of work in APS.

The cut lowered the overall funding gap by a million dollars compared to the $7.27 million gap originally announced in Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed budget.

“We’re going to ask them to close that gap,” Goldstein said during the meeting of conservations they’re scheduled to have with the County Board.

Murphy had initially said to public outcry that APS might have to nix funds for the Outdoor Lab and high school rowing teams to help reduce the missing money. It appeared that neither of those cuts were included in the School Board’s proposed budget, though an exact copy of that budget was not available at publication time. An amendment from Thursday night went a step further and restored another recommended cut: to transportation the Outdoor Lab.

The Board also voted to direct the superintendent to study APS’ digital device program for students and “develop a proposal that includes various models for student device access that considers elementary, middle, and high school instructional needs, as well as PreK-12 alignment and operational impact.”

Goldstein noted that the board cannot “make any promises” about budget cuts because it is the County Board that approves Arlington’s overall fiscal year 2020 budget.

The County Board is scheduled to vote on Arlington’s overall budget for the next fiscal year on April 23.

On Friday morning, the school system announced Amazon is awarding four schools $10,000 grants to start robotics programs. When asked for a comment on the tech grant in light of the proposed program cuts, School Board members deferred to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

Bellavia told ARLnow on Friday that grants like Amazon’s weren’t a “realistic option” to solve shortfalls in the APS’ operating budget.

“Say the School Board were to apply for a grant to fund Outdoor Lab — they would have to do so every year,” he said. “Applying for grants to fund programs like Outdoor Lab isn’t a realistic option.”

“I am simply glad Amazon is coming and that they are willing to support education and their community,” said Board member Nancy van Doren.

Members are scheduled to adopt the final version of the APS budget in May, and will hold one more public hearing on the topic shortly beforehand.

“All we know is that at the end of the day, which is May 9, that we have to make expenditure and revenue match,” Goldstein said.

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