Alexandria School Superintendent Robert W. Peebles yesterday proposed a budget for the next school year that poses almost as many questions about major funding categories as it answers.
The budget presented to the School Board does not specify the level of salary increases, city appropriation requests and even the total figure needed to run the 10,000-student system next year.
It was a departure from the direct, exact-figure approach most school officials take when presenting budget requests. Peebles said major funding projections, and hence his requests, have been delayed by stalled salary and benefits talks with employe groups and a costly proposal before the board to change the school busing system. He said those factors will be settled early next month. The board is scheduled to approve a budget Feb. 23.
In the meantime, Peebles has outlined a plan he said would cut spending next year by $2 million under current levels. Spending would be reduced 4.6 percent in the school lunch program, special education tuition fees, personnel and areas such as legal services and insurance, according to the plan.
The economies would result from a combination of tighter management and lowered costs and would not affect school programs or result in staff layoffs, Peebles said. The system expects to loose 15 staff members through attrition, 10 of them teachers, he said.
School officials, threatened with the possibility of no budget increase, announced last fall that the system would need a 9 percent boost to $52.3 million to maintain its current operating level.
"If things go our way, our overall budget increase would be under 5 percent from last year," Peebles said earlier this week, adding the possibility of 3 percent salary increases. His incomplete plan includes a tentative operating budget sub-total of $47.6 million and a request of $460,000 for equipment.
Peebles credited the overall lower rate of increase in part to a plan to use a $400,000 surplus to pay for a fleet of school buses, a computer laboratory and new text books, costs that otherwise would have to be included in next year's budget request.
In addition to receiving Peebles' budget proposal last night, the School Board heard transportation director John Johnson outline a busing plan that would change school opening times by from five to 50 minutes for all students except those attending Mount Vernon and William Ramsay elementary school.