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Votes

Column: Building a Budget to Transform a Division

— Students, staff, parents, members of the School Board and the entire Alexandria Community:

I am honored to offer you my proposed FY 2014 combined funds budget which is centered on our students and dedicated to their learning. With increasing enrollments in ACPS (12,395 in 2012 to 13,707 projected in 2014) and with ever-increasing expectations for all students, the focus of this budget is how best to address the needs of our students as we come out of a severe economic recession which held down expenditures in areas such as textbooks, reading materials, and other essential learning resources, including support personnel.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Proposed Operating Budget of $228,499,576 is an increase of 4.8 percent, or $10,545,143 from FY 2013 Approved Operating Budget. The FY 2014 Proposed Combined Funds Budget of $247,000,721, a 3.3 percent increase from the FY 2013 Approved Combined Funds Budget, which includes $11,373,998 in grants and $7,127,148 in school nutrition funds. The proposal includes a request for a City of Alexandria appropriation of $188,690,370, an increase of 5.1 percent from FY 2013.

The proposed budget is designed to support our transformation efforts and to continue to invest in our students and staff. The return on our investment from the previous budget cycles has been impressive in many areas, perhaps most notably at T.C. Williams. Even as our beloved high school has made tremendous progress, we must acknowledge the significant work going on at all levels of our school division. There is a spirit and energy throughout the school division as we are on the edge of making even greater improvements.

While a budget in itself does not assure success or high achievement, there can be no doubt that the financial and human resources needed to address our students’ needs, challenges, and strengths require significant community investment. We thank our School Board and community for supporting our efforts to pay our teachers and staff well. To assure long-term compensation support for our staff, we are recommending the following:

  • 2 percent increase in the salary schedule even as we continue to study other models of compensation

  • Continuation of our recent reduction in employee contribution to the supplemental retirement plan

  • A reduction in the percentage of medical benefits paid by the professional employee group to be more in line with city employees and surrounding school divisions.

Budget highlights of this complex budget intended to serve over 13, 700 students include:

  • Net increase of over 50 FTE, all funding sources combined; the operating budget includes a net increase of over 70 FTE offset by reductions in grant-funded positions

  • Flexibility for elementary schools in staffing their most pressing needs

  • Authentic texts for elementary reading

  • New science and social studies textbooks for secondary schools

  • Appropriate school administration staff for all buildings with assistant principals for all elementary schools

  • Additional elementary counselors to catch-up with growing enrollment and maintaining secondary counselor ratios

  • Support for STEM and Dual Language

  • A revised and more rigorous professional learning model

  • Continued investment in extended learning

  • Continued investment in special education staffing above state requirements

  • Additional support for ELL students and the International Academy

  • Increased commitment to Prekindergarten education

  • Introduction of financial literacy program.

Over the next few months, the Alexandria City School Board will consider all of the components of this proposed budget. The school board will hold public hearings and work sessions and the staff will respond to your questions and concerns from members of the community. I have proposed this budget from the division administration. In the weeks to come it will be molded by the discussion and input from our school board, students, parents, and community members into a community commitment, a promise, and a guarantee of our dedication to an equitable, excellent education for our students.

Please visit our website to view copies of all the FY 2014 budget documents and share your comments with us. You may also offer comments at any budget public hearing in the coming months. I look forward to working with you during the budget process and hearing your input.