- Budget totals $636.7 million
- Includes a step increase for eligible staff
- Includes strategies to close a $16.5 million funding gap
- Identifies areas for future efficiencies
Today, Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy presented his proposal for the FY 2019 Arlington Public Schools Budget to fund operations for the 2018-19 school year. The proposed budget totals $636.7 million, an overall increase of just under 3.8%.
This year’s budget process began with a significant funding challenge. A $25.9 million deficit was forecast for FY19, driven largely by the enrollment growth APS has experienced over the past eight years and will continue to face in the years to come. Taking this into consideration, the School Board provided clear direction on what should be included in the FY 2019 budget:
- Provide funding for our growing student population,
- Fund a compensation adjustment (step increase) for all employees,
- Include funding to add necessary instructional and administrative staff to support the growth of our 27,000-student system,
- If possible, continue the initiatives begun in FY 2017 and FY 2018, and
- Develop long-term strategies to reduce per-pupil spending.
Superintendent’s Budget Priorities
The priorities in the Superintendent’s proposed budget align with the School Board’s direction and focus on:
- Addressing growing enrollment. APS is projecting to reach 30,000 students by 2021;
- Maintaining APS’s commitment to sustained excellence;
- Continuing to provide students with opportunities and choices; and
- Developing infrastructure to support unprecedented growth while adjusting service delivery to realize savings.
FY19 Budget Components
“The FY 2019 budget was developed in close partnership with our community – families, citizens, teachers, staff, and students – based on what they value most – the needs of our students,” said Murphy. “The community continues to place a high value on providing students with a quality public education and APS has achieved the exceptional results our community expects of its schools.”
This year’s budget includes a county transfer that is 78.2% of the overall budget which is down from 79.7% in FY18. The State revenue percentage is about the same as last year and Carry Forward and Reserve funds are up from 2.8% in FY18 to 4% in FY19.
The primary cost drivers in the FY 2019 budget include:
- $8.2 million for student enrollment growth including staffing and start-up costs needed in FY19 for two new schools prior to their opening in FY20
- $11.9 million for a step increase for eligible staff and the second year of a three-year phase in to bring certain groups of employees up to match market rates
- $8.8 million for increased debt service for payment of the construction of capacity-generating projects
- $3.7 million to continue the phase-in of initiatives begun in the FY17 and FY18 budgets
Unlike previous years, this year’s revenue projections do not cover APS’s growing needs. The County Manager was directed by the County Board to develop a budget with no tax increase, so APS has had to take steps to reduce expenditures to keep the budget revenue neutral.
Funding enrollment growth, compensation, growth initiatives, and needed business and operations supports exceeded available revenue and required APS to make reductions to close this year’s $16.5 million funding gap.
Cost Per Pupil Drops
While APS enrollment has increased 43.5% over the past 10 years, the APS cost per pupil is $303 less than 10 years ago and $105 lower than the current school year. Consequently, while enrollment has continued to increase dramatically over the past decade, the annual cost per pupil has remained level for the most part over the same time period. Murphy noted, “We are proud of the resources that the Arlington community provides to educate our students. While we have not compromised on quality because we believe that our children matter, we are using resources more efficiently.”
Strategies to Close $16.5 Million Funding Gap
“To address the $16.5 million budget deficit, we collaborated with the Executive Leadership Team, principals, and school leaders over the tough budget choices we faced in putting together the FY19 budget,” Murphy said. He continued, “To reduce current expenditures and provide a path forward to achieve the budget direction set forth by the School Board, we proposed using a three-part strategy.”
Step 1 was to identify ways APS could change its instruction and service models to realize savings in FY 2019. Step 2 was to examine the budget for one-time expenditures that could be funded using one-time reserves, and Step 3 identified budget reductions to be made to reach a revenue-neutral budget.
The FY 2019 proposed budget totals $636.7 million which is less than forecasted because of this year’s constraint to provide a revenue-neutral budget. To meet this year’s revenue-neutral stipulation, several reductions and changes in service delivery have been proposed:
- Increase revenue by utilizing an Apple program to buy back used devices which will provide an estimated $1 million in revenue; increase aquatics fees; and use one-time funds for Minor Construction/Major Maintenance (MC/MM), totaling $5.4 million.
- With the collaboration of principals, several changes in planning factors are proposed. They include:
- Changing the Foreign Language instruction model in the elementary schools (FLES) and instructional staffing required;
- Adjusting Montessori staffing in grades 1-5 to align with the planning factors for all other elementary schools;
- Increasing class size by one (1) at grades 4-5; by 0.75 at the middle school level, and by 0.5 at the high school level; and
- Adjusting the planning factors for clerical staffing at high schools.
- Delay the third-year addition of psychologists and social workers as well as academic supports for English language learners.
- Changes in the Department of Teaching and Learning will adjust the current service delivery models in several areas.
- Reduce professional development opportunities and employee benefits above the standard employment offerings (e.g, outside of health insurance, leave).
- Implement other efficiencies in the areas of communications, facilities and operations, and finance.
“Together, we made tough choices to identify reductions across the system while being creative to try to maintain the integrity of the classroom. However, we could find no way to close the $16.5 million gap without touching schools since they comprise almost 83% of our operating fund.”
Looking forward, FY 2020 will present many of the same challenges as this budget which will most likely mean more future reductions. “To ensure our budget continues to be sustainable, we will continue to work with principals, staff, parents, and community members to explore more possibilities for changes in how we deliver services.”
Some of the areas APS is considering to maintain a stable budget in future years include: conducting a budget study to look at all school and classroom planning factors; reviewing exemplary projects; developing ways to conserve energy; finding transportation efficiencies; studying device use; increasing collaboration with the County; examining the Montessori program model; and continuing review of service models.
FY 2019 Budget Documents
All materials related to the FY 2019 Budget, including the FY 2019 budget calendar, the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget and Feb. 22 presentation, and the School Board’s budget priorities 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.