School tries to dig out of $2.1 million holeAccording to a preliminary budget, Alexandria Public Schools faces a $2.1 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2012-2013. The district plans to start trimming non-personnel budget items – things like textbooks, supplies, technology, summer school and activities – and, in doing so, eliminate $780,000. It’s a start, but there’s $1.3 million more to cut.
By: Amy Chaffins, Alexandria Echo Press
According to a preliminary budget, Alexandria Public Schools faces a $2.1 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2012-2013.
The district plans to start trimming non-personnel budget items – things like textbooks, supplies, technology, summer school and activities – and, in doing so, eliminate $780,000.
It’s a start, but there’s $1.3 million more to cut.
Eighty-two percent of the school district’s general fund budget is tied to personnel costs and it was announced Monday that staff will bare the brunt of budget cuts.
Judy Backhaus, the school district’s human resources director, told the school board Monday night that, across the board, staff in every group and at every level could be affected.
The staff cuts started Monday evening during the school board’s monthly meeting.
The board approved the termination or non-renewal of contracts for 19 probationary staff members, including: elementary, math, English, art, special education, business, reading recovery and industrial arts teachers. They’re at risk of losing their jobs at the end of the school year.
The board also approved placing six, tenured teachers on unrequested leave, including: physical education, business, social studies and French teachers. Their leave is effective June 30.
Student enrollment numbers and availability of funding for 2012-2013 will determine whether or not these 25 teachers will be hired back in the fall.
“Hopefully, as we get more budget information in future months we can bring some positions back,” Backhaus said.
In a news release, the district noted that they’ve worked to minimize teacher reductions by not replacing open positions due to retirements or teacher resignations.
REASONS FOR CUTS – BY THE NUMBERS
During Monday’s school board meeting, the district’s business director, Trevor Peterson, explained that the district’s current financial challenges are a result of:
• Flat funding from the state. Alexandria Public Schools receives 71 percent of its revenue from the state funding formula. Over a six-year span (fiscal year 2007-2008 to fiscal year 2012-2013), the state has only increased its funding a total of 5.03 percent – or 0.84 percent each year.
• Loss of federal stimulus money. Before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, revenue from federal sources to District 206 averaged around $1.4 million on an annual basis, Peterson said.
Stimulus allocations for the Alexandria school district increased federal funding beginning in fiscal year 2010, by approximately $600,000 in additional revenue.
In fiscal year 2011, District 206 received roughly $2.7 million in federal revenue – nearly double the average before stimulus dollars.
In fiscal year 2012, which is the current year, Peterson explained, the district’s federal revenue dipped back down to the fiscal year 2010 level – about $2 million.
“[Fiscal year] 2012 marks the final year of stimulus allocations, as federal revenue is projected to go back to the average of $1.4 million. From fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2012, the district received a total of an additional $2.5 million. With those funds no longer available, and no other revenue sources available for the district, the expenses associated with those federal programs need to be reduced in the budget.”
• Increasing costs in special education services, supplies, equipment and fuel costs. Over the past five years, non-personnel expenses have increased from $6.5 million to $7.3 million, or 11 percent, Peterson said.
“Also, state-mandated employer-paid retirement benefits to district employees has increased nearly 20 percent since 2007, and will continue to increase about 7.5 percent each year through at least [fiscal year] 2015,” he added.
The preliminary budget figures remain fluid for now – but big changes are not expected.
Peterson explained, “With the General Education Aid formula established for [fiscal year] 2012-2013, and no additional funding expected from state or federal sources, the deficit is not expected to change substantially.”
By law, school districts are required to bring a balanced preliminary budget to be approved by the board in June.
The Alexandria School Board is expected to again review and approve the preliminary budget during its June 18 meeting.
Alexandria Public Schools
2012-2013 Preliminary Budget
Deficit -$ 2,112,339.51
• Reducing supplies, textbooks, technology, activities and more, totaling about $780,000.
• Terminating 19 teachers on probationary status.
• Placing six tenured teachers on un-requested leave of absence status.