Students in Arlington County can expect to use older textbooks and to go on fewer field trips next year, as the county struggles to make up a budget shortfall resulting from reductions in state funding and continued growth in school enrollments.

School Superintendent Arthur W. Gosling outlined the proposed school budget for the 1991-92 school year at a news conference yesterday. The budget was formally presented to School Board members at last night's board meeting.

Although next year's proposed budget, at $133.5 million, is larger than the current budget by 4.3 percent, Gosling said that increase will not make up the erosion caused by inflation and cost-of-living adjustments. In all, Gosling said, $4.3 million in programs will have to be trimmed from next year's budget.

Teacher layoffs will be averted in the coming year, and the elimination of 55 staff positions, mostly by attrition, will result in savings of about $1.3 million, Gosling said. He said that class size in Arlington schools will grow by an average of one student per class.

Sabbaticals, travel expenses and conferences for teachers will also be curtailed, Gosling said.

Funds for the school capital improvement program, approved by voters in a November bond referendum, will not be affected by the budget cuts, Gosling said.

The School Board is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget on Feb. 26. The County Board will decide on the entire county budget for fiscal 1992, including the school budget, in late April.

State aid to Arlington schools will be reduced by 6.7 percent, from $21.3 million to $19.9 million, Gosling said. The reductions in state funds are exacerbated by an expected increase of 450 students over the current enrollment of 14,795. Administrators said cuts are likely in classes that traditionally have fewer students, such as high school advanced placement classes.

In addition, some programs co-sponsored by the county and the schools, such as the county career center, swimming pools and the planetarium, will face reduced hours or higher admission fees.

Although the threat of teacher layoffs was averted this year, Gosling said, that could change in the coming school year if more cuts are needed. He said 89 percent of the school budget comprises staff salaries. Meanwhile, School Board member Dorothy Clarke said no teacher pay raises are planned above the normal cost-of-living adjustments.

Gosling said that Arlington schools will be among the hardest hit in any Northern Virginia jurisdiction next year. All told, the reductions in quality of education next year will not be dramatic, but will be noticeable, he added.

Marjorie McCreery, director of Uniserv, an organization representing teachers in several Northern Virginia jurisdictions, said that she felt satisfied that "a careful job has been done in determining where the cuts should be made."

However, Clarke said that she is worried that the cuts will diminish Arlington's "reputation as being in the vanguard of school systems."

"But I recognize," she said, "that if I don't like the cuts that {Gosling} has proposed, I'm going to have to come up with some of my own."


The effects of proposed reductions in the 1991-92 budget for Arlington County schools would include:

Reduced staff travel.

Fewer conferences, sabbaticals and fellowships for teachers.

Limits on building repairs and less upkeep of school grounds.

Fewer field trips for students.

Limits on expenditures for furniture, equipment and textbooks.

Cuts in availability of substitute teachers.

Higher student-to-teacher ratios in most classes, including special education programs.

SOURCE: Arlington Schools