The Arlington County school board last week made its final cuts to next year's school budget, leaving intact funding for the popular human relations and in-school suspension programs and cutting $200,000 from the elementary school budget.
After four months of arguments and meetings about the $58.2 million school budget, school board members made their final decision in 40 minutes.
In the end, it was an unexpected list of budget cuts from board Chairman O.U. Johansen that won approval, although Johansen ended up voting against it.
Johansen's list called for no cuts in the in-school suspension project, while slicing only $13,000 from the $91,592 budgeted for human relations.
"I had a feeling of what was acceptable and what was not," Johansen said later. "I thought we had to have a list that community sentiment was not so opposed to."
Earlier this month, board member Claude M. Hilton had proposed eliminating the human relations program in its present form, saying the program could be absorbed and strengthened by existing school personnel.
That proposal, as well as one that would have eliminated the suspension program, prompted a large turnout of black citizens who packed the board room along with whites and Asians to urge the board to save both programs.
The largest cut in the Johansen list called for cutting $200,000 from $6.4 million allocated for elementary schools, an area the County Board had insisted should be left alone so that lower teacher-pupil ratios could be maintained in those grades.
Hilton opposed the Johansen proposal based on the elementary school cuts, but Johansen said the original budget proposal was predicated on lower ratios anyway, and his plan would not increase those ratios. "I don't have any reservations about the ratio . . . " he said. "I think the County Board will realize we have a tough job and I hope they'll be understanding."
Johansen's list was characterized as "painful but balanced," by board member Ann C. Broder, who joined members Torill B. Floyd and Evelyn Reid Syphax in amending and adopting Johansen's list.
Johansen said that since he proposed the list, he wanted to remain consistent by voting against the amended list. Cuts were made in various places of his list so the $30,000 volunteers could be continued.
Johansen's list calls for the elimination of 7 1/2 teaching and 25 teacher aide positions while Hilton's would have eliminated 12 and 55, respectively.
The budget already had been set last month when the County Board's Republican majority set the county's share of the budget at $45 million, nearly $1.9 million less than the schools requested. Almost $600,000 subsequently was cut by reducing proposed salary and benefit improvements for school employes.