Alexandria Superintendent Robert W. Peebles proposed 3 percent raises for school employes last night and said the system will need to spend $49.2 million next year, only 2.6 percent more than this year's budget. Peebles' budget request contains the lowest spending increase proposed for any of the area's five major school systems.
Peebles, who gave the budget totals to the School Board last night, said earlier in the day, "I believe we protect the school budgets more by being conservative" in requests for money. He said he prefers to make decisions on budget cuts himself rather than leave the task to a money-strapped City Council, which funds the school budget.
City Manager Douglas Harman, citing sagging property and sales tax revenues, had asked city agencies to prepare budgets with no projected increases.
Peebles' budget announcement came a week after he presented a budget plan that lacked figures for raises and the amount of money the system will need to run the 10,000-student system. The major funding requests were delayed by talks with employe groups that reached an impasse this week, with teacher representatives demanding 4 percent raises.
Peebles supported his recommendation by citing 3 percent raises proposed in the Falls Church and Fairfax County school systems. The proposed increase will "maintain our competitiveness," he said.
Elsewhere in the region, the Arlington School Board is scheduled to consider a last-minute request by teachers for an 11.6 percent raise at a meeting scheduled for tonight. School officials and Superintendent Charles R. Nunley are considering a 4 percent raise.
R. Alan Caudill, president of the Education Association of Alexandria, which claims a membership of more than 600 teachers, said his group will "hold out" for a 4 percent increase. A public hearing on the school budget is scheduled for Feb. 9.
Peebles has credited the low rate of increase to a plan to cut noninstructional program spending by $2 million next year and a plan to apply a $400,000 surplus to next year's costs.