Adjusted PWCS Budget Cuts Funds to Schools, Central Office; Maintains Teachers Raises

| March 21, 2013 | 0 Comments | Education

Superintendent of Schools Steven L. Walts presented the revised FY2014 budget to the School Board Wednesday.

Despite cuts in funding to schools and central office, Prince William County teachers will still receive raises in the adjusted school budget.

The School Board voted Wednesday to approve the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget Adjustments and Proposed Budget of $1,348,468,310 for Fiscal Year 2014 with the addition of an amendment that next year they would start with a zero based budget for 2015.

School Board members all voted to approve the FY14 Budget, which the exception of Lisa Bell, who was absent from the meeting.

The newly adjusted budget includes $5.59 million in reductions from the Superintendent’s original FY 14 Budget Proposal in response to $4.2 million in cuts to state funding, and $1.3 million in cuts in county funding from the previous five-year plan and County Executive’s initial budget.

“Unfortunately we can’t make everyone happy, but I think we’re doing the best we can. The two things driving the budget are revenue and growth and they are two things we can’t control,” Chairman At-large Milt Johns said.

However, educators will still receive their two percent salary increase and one percent state-mandated contribution to their Virginia Retirement Fund.

Prince William Education Association President Jim Livingston said he was happy the Board approved an increase, “consistent with most schools in the Northern Virginia area.”

The School Board approved the following reductions in these key areas:

  • Technology Improvement  – $500,000
  • Specialty Program Expansion  – $100,000
  • Adjust Allocation- Governors School at Innovation Park – $50,543
  • Division Wide Reduction – $4,359,393
  • Utilities – $484,481

The largest reductions were spread across the category  “Division Wide Reductions,” which means that all schools will receive a .5 percent decrease in funding and the central office will receive a one percent decrease in funding for FY14. Exceptions apply in cases where funds are legally required by the state, or federal government or are matched by those entities.

While schools spend 90-96 percent of their school funds on educators’ salaries, any reduction in funds proves specifically challenging for administrators, and usually increases class sizes. While Prince William County Schools cannot increase class sizes any further, Board members suggested that principals close or combine classes with low registration.

Prince William Education Association President Jim Livingston says he was relatively pleased with the school budget.

Prior to the vote on the budget, Brentsville District Supervisor Gil Trenum added a “friendly amendment” that next year’s budget would be zero based for added transparency. School Board members accepted this amendment as a condition of the FY14 Budget.

“That’s been a discussion over several years,” Trenum said. “It’s really about transparency. As everybody’s budget gets tighter, we should look at it more closely.”

Although the FY14 budget does not reduce class sizes, School Board members dedicated themselves to addressing the issue. Chairman Johns pointed out that they will need to begin the process, even if it meant just starting with one grade level each year.

Livingston thought this was a step in the right direction.

“I was pleased the Chairman addressed class sizes,” Livingston said, adding that current teaching practices require “a lot of individualized attention and instruction.”

Citizen, parent and member of the Brentsville/Gainesville Citizens Budget team Kim Simmons said she was, “thrilled that at least we have a plan,” to reduce class sizes.

Furthermore, one possible avenue to smaller class sizes for 2014 could come from  a change to the revenue sharing agreement. Although it remains possible the Board of County Supervisors could decrease the tax rate even further, according to Walts, they are also considering increasing the schools’ portion of the revenue sharing agreement to a 60:40 split.

Board members said if they received additional funds, they would use that money to first restore funding for the planned cuts and then begin to reduce class sizes.

Trenum and Gainesville District School Board Representative Alyson Satterwhite introduced an alternative budget proposal during the work session, though it did not receive any additional votes.

“People think I am always up to things, and that’s because I am usually up to things; but I am upfront as to what I’m up to,” Trenum said.

Their alternative budget proposal sought to retain school funds by pushing back scheduled CIP improvements in older schools and replacement of new transportation vehicles for at least one year.

However, Trenum and Satterwhite were unable to persuade other Board members to support their reduction plan. Supervisors worried they would have to make up the difference in next year’s budget, and that older buses could be a safety hazard.

Johns praised Trenum’s effort, saying,  “Mr. Trenum has spent a tremendous amount of time on this. The people of Brenstville are well served.”

However, every Board member seemed to get something he or she wanted. Betty Covington of the Dumfries District was happy that Retirement Opportunity Program was spared, and Steven Keen, interim Board member from the Woodbridge District, pointed out that keeping teacher pay increases helps to retain the brightest and best teachers within the county.

Furthermore, all Board members were happy that the meeting adjourned before midnight.

The FY14 school budget will now be presented to the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors for approval. If the BOCS lowers the advertised tax rate, the School Division may need to consider additional cuts.

© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

Facebook Comments
Print Friendly

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Education

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

banner ad