January 16, 2014
Albemarle County Public Schools expect to spend $164.28 million during the 2014/2015 school year. That's an increase of about a six percent from the previous year.
But superintendent Dr. Pam Moran says the school system doesn't have a spending problem. It has a revenue problem.
Revenues are projected to go up just one percent, leaving the school system $6.98 million short.
On Thursday evening, Moran presented the numbers to the public and the school board.
She attributes the expected deficit to three main components that are out of the school system's hands: inflation, mandates and student growth.
County schools will be educating an estimated 669 more students next school year than they were in 2008-09.
"That's essentially the size of Jack Jouette Middle School to our school division in five years," said Moran.
It's not just student growth, but also changes in demographics. The number of students considered economically disadvantaged has grown by 1,069 students in the last four years. Those students traditionally require more resources, increasing costs.
"We have more economically disadvantaged children than Fluvanna has children enrolled in their schools," Moran told the school board.
To stay afloat during tight budget seasons the last few years, the schools have cut central office staff, avoided raises and changed transportation routes, among other adjustments.
"But what did we not do over the last five years -- we didn't raise our class sizes, we didn't eliminate programs, and we didn't make cuts that directly affected the quality of educational excellence that we have in the system," said Moran.
The funding request Moran presented Wednesday includes $606,000 in restorations. That money would go toward programs and items previously slashed under tight spending in previous years, like the athletic budget and professional development.
It also includes $732,000 in new initiatives, such as the elementary world languages program and interpreter and translator services for special needs students and students learning English as a second language.
Moran says maintaining high educational standards comes at a cost, but closing the gap will not only benefit the schools, but the entire county.
"I can tell you this -- we're an asset to the community, just as the community is an asset to us," said Moran.
Over the next few months, county leaders will host several work sessions and public hearings before the Board of Supervisors adopts a budget in April.