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Amid declining enrollment, ACPS proposes employee raises in new budget proposal

(Updated at noon, Jan. 12) In the midst of declining enrollment, Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. wants to give all ACPS employees a raise.

That’s the gist of Hutchings’ $346 million fiscal year 2022 Combined Funds Budget, which he presented to the School Board last Thursday night (Jan. 6). The proposal is a nearly 4% increase over last year’s budget, and asks for approximately $248.7 million from the city. The City Council ultimately provides ACPS with 80% of its operating fund.

Hutchings is asking for a 2.6% salary step increase and a 2.5% market rate adjustment for all eligible ACPS employees. The school system is also continually adapting to the pandemic, as exponentially rising case numbers recently prompted the School Board plans on reverting to virtual formats on a school-by-school basis.

“Enrollment is projected to continue to decline,” noted a staff presentation to the School Board. “FY 2023 Operating Budget proposes maintaining school staff to provide continued supports due to effects of Covid-19 Pandemic.”

Systemwide, ACPS enrollment fell 3% (474 students) between summer 2020 and now (fiscal years 2021 and 2022) — a challenging period of the pandemic after more than 16,000 students transitioned to fully virtual, hybrid and then in-person learning. The school system now projects an increase of only nine students at the beginning of FY 2023 in July.

“This budget is aligned with the priorities set by the School Board for the 2022-23 school year,” Hutchings said in a press release. “It provides the support our students and staff need to succeed and mirrors our core values that ensure ACPS is empowering, equity-focused, innovative and results-driven.”

The school system is not alone in wanting raises for staff, as the Alexandria Fire Department and Police Department are also struggling with retention and Mayor Justin Wilson says the city needs to do more with less in the days ahead.

ACPS will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget on Jan. 21. The School Board is expected to pass it (with revisions) on Feb. 18, and then go to City Council for deliberation until it passes the city’s budget in early May.

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