If you listen to PWCS officials you get the idea that PWCS is facing a budget crisis the likes of which could jeopardize our children’s futures. From emails from the Prince William Education Association decrying the huge increases in class sizes to calls from school Principals requesting support for tax increases (via taxpayer funded networks I might add), the school district appears to be in an all out panic.
The way PWCS presents its budget is confusing and the documents on the PWCS budget site frequently contradict one another. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or just what happens with large government entities over time. Either way, sorting fact from political propaganda is difficult. Having said that, this is what we were able to sort out.
According to the FY 2010 Budget Book, funds for schools totaled $847.3 million with projected enrollment of 74,744 for FY 2010. This includes $33.4 million for debt service (apparently), and $34.6 million in federal stimulus dollars. The published per student cost for FY 2010 was $10,514 (we have to accept that value on faith as verifying that number based on published data appears to be impossible).
Prior to the Governor “un-freezing” the LCI the FY 2011 budget projections listed total funds for schools at $820.2 million with a projected enrollment of 78,308 students. Adding in the addition $23 million from the “un-freezing” of the LCI and projected funds for FY 2011 for PWCS are approximately $843.2 million – about $4 million less than FY 2010.
However, PWCS is expected to have about 3,564 more students enrolled in its public school in 2011 (total projected enrollment of 78,308) than 2010. Using published FY 2010 per pupil costs that additional enrollment results in about $37.5 million in additional expenses above 2010 levels but our budget is $4 million less.
That means cuts or tax increases, or both.
What has the district proposed cutting?
First, we need to define cuts. Some of the budgets prepared by the district assume annual increases. For instance, the regional special ed school budget is assumed to have a 5% annual increase. Some of these assumed increases will not occur in FY 2011 which is translated as a cut in funding, even though it really is a lack of an increase.
Proposed cuts start with about $19.4 million in cuts to central office and non-school instructional support and about $40 million in cuts to in school programs. Cuts to in school programs include increasing class sizes to the state maximum (from 20 to 21 students for HS and MS classes and from 28 to 29 students for ES classes) , increasing the staff support to ESOL student ratio (from 1 per 29 students to 1 per 36 students), cutting funding for Economically Disadvantaged programs, reducing funding for special ed services like speech and adaptive PE, and reducing funding for gifted ed and learning disabled programs by 5%. Additionally teachers will not receive salary increases and will face increased health care costs.
Fees for student programs will increase. Each IB / AP / or Cambridge test will carry a $75 fee. High school sports will cost $100 and Middle School sports will cost $50. Student parking fees will increase from $100 to $150.
With site based budgeting, cuts and changes at each individual school will vary.
What about tax increases?
The school district doesn’t have the authority to increase taxes – that authority rests with the BOCS – but has already begun lobbying the public and the BOCS to increase our local property taxes to cover the projected shortfall.
There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget on March 1st at Stonewall Jackson High School at 6 PM. You need to sign up by noon with the clerk or in person by 5:55PM to speak.