City of Manassas Park

The following was among actions taken at the Jan. 16 meeting of the Manassas Park School Board. For more information, call 335-8850.

BUDGET -- The School Board approved a plan for saving an estimated $71,850 to help offset an expected cut of about $175,000 in state school aid for both this fiscal year and the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The savings will come primarily from reducing student testing and some school maintenance budgets.

In a related action, the board directed staff to develop a more detailed "reduction in force" policy in case the cutbacks in state aid in the next fiscal year force the schools to lay off employees. There are currently just under 200 school employees, including 111 full- and part-time teachers.

The board "feels there may have to be some reduction in force if they're looking at several hundred thousand {dollars} less {from the state} next year to work with," said school Financial Clerk Lois Wenz.

The state is cutting aid to local school systems to help balance almost $2 billion in state revenue shortfalls. Under those cuts, aid to Manassas Park schools, which has 1,332 students, is being reduced by $30,000 to $35,000 this year out of an expected total of about $4.1 million in state aid. This year's city school budget is $7.1 million.

In the coming fiscal year, the state is expected to cut aid to city schools by about $142,000.

The only spending restriction approved by the School Board which will directly affect instruction is limiting standardized testing to state-mandated testing and cutting back on test preparation programs.

City schools have expanded their testing and test-preparation programs in recent years in an effort to improve students test scores, which have been among the lowest in Northern Virginia. For example, Manassas Park has been administering one standardized test to kindgarten through 11th grade students when the state mandates the test be given to only 4th, 8th and 11th grades. By testing no more than what the state mandates, the schools will save about $5,000.

Most of the savings will come from what school officials now see as overfunding in some areas of the budget. For example, officials now believe they have budgeted $10,000 too much for insurance of school maintenance facilities and $18,000 more than they need for heating and electricity, since this winter so far has been milder than normal.

The school system's current policy on layoffs "needs to be more definitive," Wenz said. It currently provides for layoffs if there is a decrease in student enrollment or the elimination of a program or service or if the City Council has allocated insufficient money to fund the positions. The policy does not include actual procedures for laying off the employees.