APS News Release

Arlington Interim Superintendent Proposes Needs-Based FY 2021 Budget

  • Addresses Core Services and Needs for Students and Employees
  • Aligns with Strategic Plan
  • Provides Compensation Increase for All Employees
  • Emphasizes School Board’s Top Priorities
  • Increases Support for English Learners and Students with Special Needs

At the February 27 School Board Meeting, Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson presented her proposal for the FY 2021 Arlington Public Schools Budget to fund operations for the 2020-21 school year. The proposed budget totals $725.9 million, an overall increase of 8.4 percent, as APS prepares to welcome more than 1,100 additional students next fall.

The FY21 budget includes $698.4 million in total revenue based on the County Manager’s proposed budget. APS is requesting an additional $27.5 million in revenue from the county to meet the needs outlined in the FY21 budget.

“This needs-based budget is focused on honoring our commitment to students and staff and remaining competitive,” said Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson. “The funds are needed to sustain excellence and remain responsive to the needs of each student while striving to maintain highly qualified staff for a world-class school system.”

School Board Budget Direction
The Interim Superintendent’s proposed budget aligns with the School Board’s budget direction that the FY21 budget be a needs-based budget that aligns with the Strategic Plan; emphasizes the School Board’s top three priorities focused on increased achievement for all students, improved mental health measures and ensuring all students can identify at least one school-based adult who supports them; provides a compensation increase for all staff; and if possible, continue initiatives started in previous budget years and provide for the recommendations and requirements outlined in the Program Evaluations for English Learners and Students with Special Needs and the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement.

FY21 Budget Components
“This conservative, needs-based budget is no frills and includes our basic needs to serve our students and staff. We have been fortunate to be shielded from the effects of the teacher shortage that has been felt by other school divisions in Virginia. While we have been shielded, we are beginning to feel the effects,” said Johnson.The primary cost drivers in the FY21 budget include:

  • Virginia Retirement System rate increases (6% at a cost of an additional $2.2 million)
  • State-mandated student to school counselor ratios at the elementary level that will require additional school counselors
  • Competitive teacher salary scales in Northern Virginia
    • $18 million for a Step Increase for all staff ($10.6 million), including at 1.6% cost of living adjustment ($7.4 million)
  • $12.83 million for enrollment growth which includes 120.60 positions
  • $3.89 million for Increased English Learner (EL) supports
  • $6.56 million for increased special needs supports
  • $1.03 million in increased transportation costs

Steps Taken to Reduce Deficit
In creating the FY21 budget, staff reviewed the existing allocation of funds and use of resources to identify ways to realign resources through collaboration between central and school-based staff. Steps taken include:

  • Innovative solutions that realign resources;
  • Finding efficiencies in baseline budgets;
  • The use of reserves; and
  • Service delivery model changes through realignment of resources

Realignment of Resources
The FY21 budget includes the following changes that allow resources to be realigned to meet the needs of students.

  • Realigns EL assistants to provide additional EL teachers to meet DOJ requirements
  • Current EL teachers who manage dually-identified students will provide direct instruction for half the day
  • Provide incentives to special education teachers in self-contained settings to become dual-endorsed in EL to reduce need for additional teachers
  • Eliminate the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES) program but provide flexible positions to meet instructional and planning needs (1-2 per school based on enrollment)

“The Proposed Budget recommends reallocating or reassigning some elementary EL assistants and all current FLES teachers to best meet the needs of our English Learners and students with special needs,” said Johnson. “We greatly value the contributions and skills that all our FLES teachers and EL assistants bring and are providing opportunities for each to remain with APS as we realign resources.” 

Additional Reductions
To fully fund the remaining budget, APS needs an increased County transfer of $27.5 million to schools. In case that additional revenue is not realized, the new requests in the proposed budget have been placed into three tiers, with Tier 1 being those additions that are essential and Tier 3 being those additions that are important but less urgent.  Depending on the level of additional funding provided by the County, the new requests in the budget would be eliminated beginning with those items in Tier 3 and continue with Tier 2, then Tier 1 except for the English Learner teachers and the one-to-one assistants, and lastly, the compensation increase.

Without the additional revenue from the County, even if Tier 3, 2 and 1 reductions are taken, and the proposed compensation increase is eliminated, APS would still face a deficit of over $10 million.

“We understand that it was imperative to find opportunities to realign our service delivery in areas where this was feasible while maintaining the excellent instructional program that we deliver for our students to grow and thrive academically. This budget includes this approach to assist with our budget deficit,” said Johnson. “We have made tough decisions and recognize that if we do not get the funding to close our $27 million gap, we will need to realize further reductions and eliminate the tiered needs represented in this budget. We need to continue to align our work with the APS Strategic Plan with the mission to ensure all students learn and thrive in a safe, healthy and supportive learning environment.”

She continued, “The FY21 budget was developed in collaboration with the Executive Leadership Team after careful deliberation and considerations to find creative solutions to address our budget needs with greater sensitivity to the community’s perceptions about the budget process and how it individually affects them.”

FY 2021 Budget Documents
All materials related to the FY21 Budget, including the FY21 budget calendar; the FY21 budget development process; the Interim Superintendent’s Proposed Budget and February 27 School Board presentation, are available online. Visit www.apsva.us/engage to provide your feedback and input throughout the process, and use #APSBudget on social media to join the conversation.