Alexandria, VA

Faced with a $7.4 million reduction in funding from the city and $4 million lost from the state, Alexandria City Public Schools is faced with dire cuts that will keep staffing levels but leave teachers with reduced pay.

“We are facing a global pandemic, but that does not change our priorities,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings said at a virtual meeting on Friday. “We are staying true to actual budget priorities that were approved by the board as we make these revisions.”

The largest cuts come from the $5.5 million elimination of the annual step increase, which City Manager Mark Jinks implied would be necessary in his budget presentation to the City Council.

Two of the other major cuts are a general reduction in non-personnel expenditures for $1.8 million and the elimination of new positions for $1.4 million.

The non-personnel expenditures represent a 5% cut across the board, with principals and chiefs assigned to make those cuts within their schools and departments.

Hutchings said that 29.8 fulltime employees were planned to be hired in the budget initially, which was reduced to 13.7 in the new budget.

“Our goal is to not have a reduction in force,” Hutchings said. “Right now, we’re not recommending having a reduction in force. That’s a huge benefit for us. Some school divisions are having those discussions right now.”

Hutchings warned, though, that this could change if the economic downturn continues.

“I don’t want to say we will never have a reduction in force,” Hutchings said. “Realistically, if this economy continues to have a downturn… that’s going to be a very tough decision that we may have to make in the next few months.”

The reductions in the budget will also have an impact on pay for teachers. While salaries aren’t planning to be cut or enhanced, Hutchings said increasing health premiums means employees will see a decrease in take-home pay.

For a teacher who has a master’s degree and United Healthcare — which Hutchings said is the majority of teachers in the school system — take-home pay will decrease by $213 over the next year.

“[We’re] making decisions in the best interest of staff members and students,” Hutchings said. “We are proposing something that is preventing people from losing their jobs due to COVID-19.”

On the capital project side, the budget includes the deferral of the T.C. Williams High School renovation, though the 2024 opening date is still included in the project.

The budget is planned to be discussed throughout May, with final adoption scheduled for Friday, June 5.

Top photo by Jay Westcott, graph via ACPS

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