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City Working to Close $41 Million Budget Gap While Schools Request $5 Million Increase

The annual showdown between the City Council and School Board over funding could be exacerbated this year by the lingering fiscal impact of coronavirus.

At the tail end of a joint work session between the two bodies last week, City Manager Mark Jinks outlined the dire fiscal situation as the city heads into its budget season.

“We’re closing the gap,” said Jinks. “We started with a $41 million gap in November. We’re not allowed to have a gap when the budget is proposed. That’s been a lot of discussion with departments about budget reduction options. Many of them are also ways of saving money, getting through the next year, without material service reduction.

Jinks says the city is gradually making progress on that and, later this month, a proposed budget will be sent to the City Council.

Meanwhile, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is working through a parallel budget process. Dominic Turner, Chief Financial Officer for ACPS, said in the meeting that the schools will be requesting a $5 million increase.

“With that budget, asked for a city increase of $5 million,” Turner said. “That increase helps cover staff step increases and health benefits going into 2022.”

Turner said the schools have been leaning hard on grant funding to help equip students with the technology needed for virtual schooling. When ACPS does return to in-person schooling, the system has also said it will need contingencies in place for localized outbreaks at schools.

“The strategy is to have funding available when students get in the door to mitigate COVID-19 issues,” Turner said.

A joint work session for both groups to discuss their budgets is scheduled for March 3.

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