The Prince William County School Board is set to re-work its budget now that the board of county supervisors approved about $41.6 million less than the school board requested in its recommended budget.
Less funding means the school board is facing important decisions on how to adjust its budget for fiscal year 2021, which starts July 1.
On March 18, the school board approved its recommended budget for fiscal 2021 based on its request that the county dedicate $666.9 million to the schools division.
On April 28, the board of county supervisors voted to allocate $629.6 million to the school division, which includes $625.3 million that is part of the county’s revenue sharing agreement, along with additional funding for class size reduction, costs related to the 13th high school and more.
School Board Chair Babur Lateef said he can’t say exactly what the school board will decide in the coming weeks regarding the budget, but he doesn’t think the school division will be able to pay for the planned 4.8% raises for teachers and staff due to the cuts in funding from the county and the state.
“The question is can we do any raise at all? I think the school board is working on that,” Lateef said.
The board is trying to preserve the spirit of its initial budget, Lateef said, including funding for economically disadvantaged students, employee pay raises and targeted pay increases for teachers with one to three years of experience.
“The big ticket items have to be addressed, can we afford them?” Lateef said. “The answer is, ‘no,’ we can't afford them the way they look now. We’re going to have to adjust that. And I think the board will like to maintain the spirit of what we were trying to invest in.”
The division’s 100 schools have been closed since March 14. School officials have passed out available digital devices to high school students and have ordered about 15,500 laptops that are expected to arrive in May.
While the board will consider cuts to the budget, Lateef said investing in online learning, computers and professional development for remote learning has become increasingly important amid school closings due to the pandemic.
“Just by nature of the COVID-19 catastrophe, we’ll have to increase spending in those areas,” Lateef said.
The school board is set to hold a public meeting electronically at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, and staff are set to provide a budget update.
“I commend the board of county supervisors under Ann Wheeler to at least get us what they got us,” Lateef told InsideNoVa on the phone Friday. “I’m grateful for her leadership.”
Dave Sinclair, the county’s director of the management and budget office, said in an email the county is allocating $18.1 million more than the county dedicated to the division in the current fiscal year.
School officials estimate they’ll see about 953 more students next year. According to the division, the cost of teaching those additional students is $17.6 million. The division currently has more than 91,500 students.
“So we still have to hire new teachers,” Lateef said. “As we grow, it’s hard to not hire positions.”