ARLINGTON – In the Arlington Public Schools budget for the new school year, it seems everyone is getting a bite of the apple.
But district officials are quick to caution that in the long run, revenues overall are going to continue a gradual decline after the state took over funding basic education.
The school board adopted a “stay the course” for 2019-20 that contains across-the-board pay increases and more staff, as well as more money for safety improvements, buses, athletics and the arts.
The total proposed operating budget is $83.4 million – a 4.7% increase over 2018-19, against projected revenues of $82.3 million.
The district is starting the school year with a general fund balance of $12.2 million, due in part to $500,000 more in revenues than expected, and $2.5 million less in spending, said Gina Zeutenhorst, executive director of Financial Services.
With spending exceeding revenues in 2020, the ending fund balance is forecasted to decline $1.4 million.
A multi-year forecast shows that expenditures will surpass revenues each year through 2023, and the fund balances for programs, services and operations will continue to slide without a replacement levy and relief from the legislature, Zeutenhorst said.
The levy for 2020 is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Regionalization dollars from the state to fund basic education and help more equitably match teacher salaries with local costs of living will shrink from 18% in 2020, to 17% in 2021 and 16% a year later.
While some districts have cut positions in the coming budget cycle, Arlington didn’t reach that point, and is actually able to add new positions and programs.
The district has budgeted for seven new teaching positions, including three K-12 instructors and eight classified staff that includes behavioral support positions and a nurse for Weston High School, bringing the district total to 574 workers.
Other budget highlights:
• Transfers $250,000 to the Transportation Vehicle to buy more buses.
• Keeps intact summer school and after-school activity busing.
• Adds more para-educator and secretarial support time.
• Safety and security improvements.
• Support for band instruments and set-aside fund for uniforms.
• The student supply budget increased from $20 to $22 per elementary school student, $1,000 per middle schooler and $2,000 increase per high school student.
• The district cut athletic participation fees to help families. To meet that change, the 2020 budget increased the high school athletics and activities budget by $70,000, and middle schools budget by $15,000.
Teaching and support will increase from $59 million last year to $61.3 in 2019-20, a 3.5 percent increase of $2.2 million. Teaching and support constitute 73.5% of the district budget.
Board policy requires a minimum fund balance equal to one month’s average operating costs, which for 2020 is $6.9 million.