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Votes

How Much For Schools?

Perry proposes $165.2 million budget.

A $165.2 million budget for 2005-2006 to operate the city's public schools was presented last week to the School Board by Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry. It represents an increase of approximately $7.5 million over present costs and more than $22.7 over actual operating expenses of 2004.

Of the total package 65.7 percent is allocated for salaries and wages; 20.01 percent for employee benefits; 12.59 percent for supplies and services; 2.18 percent for capital outlay; and .15 percent for other uses and funds.

"The emphasis is focused on student achievement. What we have in the new budget is continued funding for many programs now in effect," Perry said.

She also outlined several areas where additional efforts will be made in the coming fiscal year. These include:

* Increased academic support to athletes;

* The addition of a full-time test coordinator at T.C. Williams High School;

* The introduction of a modified calendar at Mount Vernon Community School;

* And the addition of two parent liaisons, one at Cora Kelly and another to serve district-wide.

THE ESTIMATED COSTS of the latter two new initiatives amount to $396,877 and $99,479 respectively. "Under the No Child Left Behind Program, testing has become a major effort. It requires the attention of a full-time person," she said.

"Professional growth and development of teachers is enhanced in this budget by an increase in staff development funding of over $132,000 including $50,000 for an ongoing staff development program for the Small Learning Communities Research framework," Perry wrote in her budget message to the board.

"Additional stipends for mentor teachers, increased staff development opportunities for reading instruction, and additional staff development for support staff are included. The budget maintains the teacher tuition reimbursement program at the current level of $200,000 per year and continues funding of $80,000 for registration fees, required coursework, substitute costs and stipends for teachers to participate in the National Board Certification program," Perry wrote.

"This budget includes a realignment of stipends for teachers performing additional duties as well as an increase in the daily rate of pay for substitute teachers. These improvements are necessary in order to remain competitive with surrounding school districts and to attract qualified candidates," she advised the Board.

OUT OF A TOTAL city population, now approaching 140,000, Alexandria public schools have an enrollment of more than 10,600. Of the overall fiscal budget for the city, the school district budget accounts for approximately 33 percent.

The city appropriation is projected at $137.7 million for fiscal 2006, which amounts to 83.35 percent of the entire education budget, according to Perry's presentation. That is an increase of approximately $7.7 million or 5.84 percent over the revised 2005 spending plan.

Federal funds are projected to remain stagnant for 2006 at $88,760, while state aid is projected to increase by 3.7 percent from the present $23.5 million to $24.4 million. The big drop occurs in miscellaneous funds from $752,914 to $617,849, or 17.94 percent.

Allocation of funds by major categories is as follows:

* Instruction 79.94 percent;

* Administration/Attendance and Health 8.17 percent;

* Transportation 3.13 percent;

* Operations and Maintenance 8.59 percent;

* And School Food Services 0.37 percent.

Following the Jan. 27 board meeting, a budget work session will be held to begin the process of refining of the Superintendent's budget. The first public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5 at 9 a.m. in the board office.

On Feb. 16 there will be an add and delete session by the board. At this meeting any changes made by the board must be balanced by adding or deleting another item.

The School Board will adopt the final version on Feb. 17. "It then becomes the board's budget and goes to City Council," Perry said. Last Thursday's presentation was the beginning of the process.