Arlington School Supt. Larry Cuban's proposed 1977-78 budget of $47.7 million reflects his hopes that Arlington schools will be able "to return to a level of operation that has been severely lowered in the past two years."
This is the minimum budget Cuban said he would endorse.
But hard financial realities, rather than hopes, are reflected in another optional budget of $45.1 million Cuban presented to the school board last week for review.
Cuban presented this emergency budget to indicate what Arlington schools would lose under such a spending limit as dictated by the county board. it is not a budget he endorses, but one that Arlington schools may be lucky to get if spending cuts are as rempant as last year.
"This budget does nothing more than continue the emergency operating level we are managing this year," Cuban said. "If there are more cuts coming to the schools this year, this budget shows the absolute lowest amount we could tolerate."
The major difference between the two budgets lies in the amount of money available to offer some salary raises and restore some school supplies and programs. The $47.7 million budget, 11 per cent higher than the current budget of $42.4 million, earmarks $1.6 million to restore textbooks, library books and other school supplies that were been cut back last year. It also provides $600,000 to partly restore a few special services and programs like summer school, math and reading tutoring and elementary level counselors. Another $1.2 million would be available for "extremely small salary raises" and repayment of a $600,000 loan from the County Board, Cuban said.
The optional emergency budget would prohibit raises, loan repayment, restoration of slashed school programs and provide only $800,000 to add school supplies.
Both budgets would require elimination of some school positions, including instructional, administrative, maintenance and planning personnel. The superintendent's recommended budget would eliminate 49 positions, including 35 teaching positions that would have been cut anyway because of declining enrollment, a school spokesman said. The emergency budget of $45.1 million would eliminate 93 positions.
The two budgets were among four options Cuban presented that ranged from a low of $43.3 million to a high of $48.5 million. The County Board, which funds Arlington schools, set guidelines for the school budget that range between $43.3 million and $45.3 million.
Cuban calls the $43.3 million budget option, designed to fit the low end of the county guidelines, a deterioration level budget - one that would force a $1 million cut in the current $42.4 million operating level, force a freeze of all salaries and fringe benefits, cause more school closings, cut 70 teaching postions and raise class size. The $48.5 million budget option - an "improvement" level budget - would give higher salary raises and add new school programs and projects. Cuban calls his budget "the most desirable for meeting student needs."
"A school budget within the range suggested by the County Board would severely damage our schools," Cuban added. "At the high end of the range we would still have to cut back below the level we are operating on this year."
Some $1.9 million in fixed increases displaces funds that might otherwise have been used for improved programs and services, Cuban said. Fixed increases include school operating costs, higher salary costs, employee benefits such as insurance and retirement funds and a quick in this year's fiscal calendar that adds an extra payday which would have gone into the 1978-79 fiscal year.
The superintendent's budget projects a $469,000 decrease in state and federal funds from last year when the combined funds totaled about $7.1 million. between inflation, the rising cost of living and fewer available state and federal funds, school officials estimate that about $38.5 million in local funds will be needed to meet the $45.5 million emergency budget alone - a $3.7 million increase in local funds over last year.
Cuban said the county share of the school budget increased last year, that but that the increase did not cover the sharp drop in state and federal funds, partly caused by declining enrollment.
The superintendent's budget projects a drop of 749 pupils by September, bringing Arlington's total student enrollment to 18,420 and continuing a 10-year decline of student population in the county.
Despite the decline, the budget would maintain Arlington's current pupil-teacher ratio at 19.5 to one in the junior and senior high schools and 26 to one in the elementary schools. Costs per pupil under the tentative budget, in keeping with inflation, will increase to $2,451 next year, nearly $240 more per pupil that than last year.
Cuban said that although the cost per pupil has risen since 1974, it has actually declined in costant dollars (based on dollar value in 1967) and has not risen as fast as inflation.
"I firmly believe at least $47.7 million is justifiable (for next year's budget)," Cuban said. "Operating for any length of time at this emergency level we have been holding will deepen damage already done to the school system."
What Cuban refers to as damage are the repeated cuts made to his 1976-77 proposed budget of $46.3 million, finally bringing it to be current $42.4 million. He said the cuts eliminated 162 positions, left 14 budgeted positions unfilled, eliminated summer school and elementary level counselors, reduced replacements of books and other supplies and required higher fees for certain programs, among other things.
"My budget doesn't ask anything new," Cuban added. "It only seeks to replace what we have lost in light of severe cuts already made. Even under this budget we have to contend with more inflation, more increases in the cost of living."(TABLE) (COLUMN)Deterioration(COLUMN)Emergency(COLUMN)Maintenance(COLUMN)Improved (COLUMN)level(COLUMN)level(COLUMN)level(COLUMN)level Current(COLUMN)$42.4 million(COLUMN)$42.4 million(COLUMN)$42.4 million(COLUMN)$42.4 million operating(COLUMN)(COLUMN)(COLUMN)(COLUMN) level(COLUMN)(COLUMN)(COLUMN)(COLUMN) Fixed cost [CHART OMITTED] (END TABLE) CAPTION: (TABLE) Chart, Arlington School Budget Options (END TABLE)