Cuts and Freezes in Tough Times

Monday, February 9, 2009

Three local school systems took major action last week on education budgets for the next fiscal year.

· The Alexandria School Board approved first-year Superintendent Morton Sherman's $197 million spending plan, $2 million less than the current spending level.

"We are delivering a budget that should advance student achievement and should advance a rigorous curriculum but yet decrease dollars and preserve as many jobs as possible," said board Chairman Yvonne A. Folkerts.

· The Fairfax County School Board approved Superintendent Jack D. Dale's $2.2 billion budget, with a $10 million year-to-year reduction, freezing employee salaries among other cost-cutting measures.

"There are things the superintendent is recommending to cut that I am very troubled by," board member Kaye Korey (Mason) said. "But I also know that there is a more than 50 percent chance we will have to cut even more."

· Prince William County Superintendent Steven L. Walts proposed a $745 million budget, a $54 million annual cut, freezing salaries and raising class size.

"We face the greatest budget deficit in our history," Walts said. "Cuts must be made, and they will be painful to many."

In addition, the Loudoun County School Board approved a $747 million budget Jan. 27 proposed by Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III, freezing salaries and keeping spending essentially flat. Tonight, the Montgomery County Board of Education is scheduled to act on Superintendent Jerry D. Weast's $2.13 billion spending plan, with a 3 percent year-to-year increase. And on Feb. 18, the Prince George's County Board of Education is scheduled to vote on a flat-level, $1.7 billion budget proposed by interim Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., with possible cuts of 900 positions and growth in class size.

-- Staff writers Michael Birnbaum, Michael Alison Chandler, Daniel de Vise, Nelson Hernandez and Theresa Vargas contributed to this report.

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