Revenue summary for Arlington Public Schools’ FY 2018 budget.
The schools are happy.
At its May 4 meeting, the School Board approved a final Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Though the final result was $700,000 less than what the board had originally requested from the county, it was close enough that Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy still called the budget “good news” and fully funded.
The $700,000 difference between revenue and expenditures was resolved with a reduction to Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB). None of the proposed tiered cuts to the budget had to be implemented.
The county is the largest source of APS funding, contributing 78.9 percent of the school’s $613.5 million budget. The FY 2018 budget was a 5.4 percent increase over the FY 2017 budget.
According to the budget documents, the largest driver of the cost increase was $9.2 million for student enrollment growth. Over the last eight years, enrollment in APS has increased by 6,900 students. Actual enrollment at the start of the 2016 school year was 26,152 students, while projected enrollment for the start of school this fall is 27,197, an increase of 1,045 students. According to the Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE), Arlington spends the most of any local jurisdiction per student. In 2017, Arlington spent $18,957 per student, and spends $19,521 per student in the FY 2018 budget.
Enrollment growth required an increase in 67.5 positions in the schools, which comprises $7.15 million of that $9.2 million for enrollment growth, along with supplies and materials. Another $1.2 million under enrollment growth went to fund relocatable classrooms. In the budget forecast, enrollment growth costs were expected to increase to $9.8 million in FY 2019, with a bump to $11 million in FY 2020 and $10.9 million in FY 2021.
A step-increase for eligible staff was the next highest cost, at $8.7 million. On average, step increases raise salaries 2.8 percent, though it can go up to five percent. Between 2009 and 2015, APS employees saw step increases in alternating years, with slight compensation adjustments in the off-years. However, since FY 2015, APS employees have had step increases every year. In the budget forecast, step increases are expected to cost $9.2 million in FY 2019, rising to $10.2 million by FY 2021.
Nancy Van Doren, chair of the School Board, thanked the County Board and Arlington’s citizens for their support.
“I have to thank your taxpayers, our citizens,” said Van Doren. “Only 15 percent of our citizenry have children in the school system. It shows an enlightened, progressive community that invests in the schools that way. Every time you see your neighbors, thank them for their investment in the schools. We would not be able to have this closed and balanced budget were it not for their generosity.”