Prince William County schools will face a bigger financial crunch than authorities originally thought in the wake of a second round of state budget cuts announced recently in Richmond, officials said this week.
Because of the state's budget crisis, Prince William schools will lose $2.4 million in education funding this fiscal year.
Last week, state budget officials announced $3.5 million in cuts for the next fiscal year (1991-92). County schools operate on a total budget of $318 million, of which $232 million is for operating expenses and $7.9 million is for food services.
The 1991-92 cut was increased to $5.5 million this week after Prince William school officials discovered that budget analysts had based their original cut on erroneous student enrollment figures, said Robert Ferrebee, associate superintendent for management for Prince William County Public Schools. The cut represents a 5.7 percent decrease in state funding over what was provided this year.
News of the cuts, totaling $8 million in two years, left Prince William officials wondering how to offset their dwindling finances. The county, which allots 49 percent of its general revenue to schools, expects the 1990-91 fiscal year allocation of $141.8 million to remain the same for next year, said Kathy Lueckert, of the county's Office of Management and Business.
"We know enough to be very worried," said school Superintendent Edward Kelly. "We don't feel that we have a budget that's overinflated anyway . . . . We don't have a lot of fat to deal with. It's been a struggle for us, and now they come along and say we may have less money to work with."
Kelly presented a list of options to the School Board last week for consideration in easing the county's budget woes. The list of suggestions is a preliminary evaluation of some areas that could be cut to save money, he said. The options include:
Not replacing 13-year-old school buses.
Reducing money for textbooks by delaying new textbook adoptions for one year.
Eliminating step increases and related benefits for employees.
Reducing funding for overtime pay for temporary employees.
Reducing extended teaching contracts to a maximum length of 214 days.
Increasing the pupil-teacher ratio in some programs.
Eliminating or reducing programs in excess of state or federal requirements and mandates.
Reducing or eliminating the 5 percent "cost-of-doing business" increase for current supplies, equipment and services.
Reducing or eliminating funding for conferences and related travel expenses.
Ferrebee and Kelly emphasized that the listed proposals were options that were being considered. The School Board will make the final decision on any cuts based on recommendations from school administration staff, Kelly said.
"These are just some ideas that might possibly be employed," Kelly said. "It's far from being final or absolute. Until we know more about the specifics of what our revenue will be, we won't know."
School officials have found it difficult to continue to increase services for the expanding school population in the wake of the state and county financial crunches brought about by the downturn in the area's economy.
Because of rapid growth in the school district, following the county's housing boom in the 1980s, school officials have opened 10 new schools since Kelly took office four years ago, the superintendent said.
As the population grew, so did specialized programs in the 41,353-student district. For example, the schools' English as a Second Language program has quadrupled to 474 students since it began in 1987. The changing social landscape also has led to changes in drug and sex education programs.
Although the school district's growth has slowed -- one fall it opened with 1,300 new students, but next year it expects only about 300 new students -- authorities have had to scurry to make provisions for the newcomers.
Three new schools are scheduled to open next year. "Baseline staffing" for them is expected to cost $1.1 million; utilities and other operation expenses will send the total up to $2 million, Ferrebee said.
Plans to open two new schools in 1992 have been pushed back to 1993 because of the fiscal crisis, Ferrebee said.
Other changes may be required to provide the best quality of education with dwindling resources, officials said. Administrators are brainstorming to find ways to streamline, Ferrebee said.
"What it means is that next year we will have to operate the school division on less money than this year, with more students and inflation running at about 6 percent," Ferrebee said. "Which is serious, and it will require some serious cutbacks in some areas."