Albemarle Co. Schools: Increased Tax Rate Would Help Retain Class Size, Staff
Albemarle County Public Schools is looking at some big cuts next school year, even if the county's proposed property tax increase goes in to effect.
Right now, the schools face a $1.2 million gap. That is equal to the loss of 18 teachers, plus programs and services.
The proposed tax increase of .04 cents would fill about half of that funding gap, but even a $600,000 gap could still mean a loss of jobs and programs.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the potential tax rate increase on March 27.
Albemarle County Public Schools Press Release
Albemarle County, VA – The proposed increase of four-tenths of a penny in the county tax rate would have a significant impact on the ability of Albemarle County Public Schools to retain class sizes at their current levels and fully staff schools to support increases in student enrollment next year. The property tax rate increase would yield about $600,000 for the school division, but since the proposed tax rate is less than an equalized rate, most homeowners in the county still would pay less property tax next year.
"We are extremely appreciative of the support our students received from the Board of Supervisors during their budget work session on March 11," said Josh Davis, the school division's chief operating officer. "Primarily because of a projected increase of more than 180 students next year and a modest compensation increase for teachers and staff, we are facing an estimated shortfall of $1.2 million," Davis said. The additional $600,000 the school division would receive if the proposed local government tax rate is approved would reduce the funding gap from $1.2 million to $600,000.
The $1.2 million funding gap is equivalent to 18 teaching positions, while a funding gap of $600,000 equals nine positions. Reductions to meet a funding gap of $1.2 million likely would result not only in the loss of regular teaching staff, but also, reductions in programs and services for at-risk students and in support of enrichment opportunities. A number of large elementary schools and middle schools would lose staff positions intended to equalize services among all county schools, and among other options the School Board would consider are increases in class size across all grade levels.
The need to cut the school division's 2013-14 budget by as much as $1.2 million also could eliminate the division's effort to move closer to the recommended guidelines in a state study for technical support services for students. The state study recommends the equivalent of one technology support professional for every 200 computers in the classroom. Currently, Albemarle County Public Schools has one technical support professional for every 763 computers. Three new positions requested for next year would improve the ratio to 1:659, more than three times below the recommended level of support. Without additional revenue from local government, these three new positions would face elimination.
Davis said the average two percent increase in compensation next year follows four years in which the total compensation increase for employees was two percent. (Employees received a six percent increase in 2012, but five percent of that increase went directly to the Virginia Retirement System, so the net impact per employee was an increase of one percent.) The proposed 2013-14 increase is equal to the compensation increase recommended by Governor Bob McDonnell for all teachers in Virginia. The state is providing about 20 percent of the funding for the increase.
"Superintendent Moran has characterized our funding request as the fourth consecutive year of maintenance of effort budgets," Davis said, "and the only significant new item for 2013-14 is the state-mandated virtual learning course. At a time when the pace of competition for quality teachers and staff is intense and the competition our students will face upon graduation is so difficult, we must make the modest investments that will uphold the educational standards our residents expect," Davis said. "We don't believe that reduced services or larger class sizes meets those expectations," he concluded.
The Board of Supervisors will conduct a public hearing on the tax rate and the budget on Wednesday, March 27 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held in Lane Auditorium in the McIntire Road county office building. "We encourage county residents to share their perspective on education with the Board, either in person or in writing," Davis said.