The $87.7 million budget request adopted by the Arlington School Board Thursday night would grant some longtime wishes of board members, parents and teachers by providing funding for minority achievement programs, teacher incentives and high school science instruction.
It also possesses a characteristic rare in such circumstances: It is a budget that seems to have pleased almost everyone.
"I think it is a very responsible budget; I think there are some needed program improvements," said Bonnie Pfoutz, president of the Arlington Education Association, which represents most of the county's 1,000 teachers.
"I'm basically pleased," said Conchita Mitchell, president of the County Council of PTAs.
"I'm very pleased with the budget and I have no doubt that services for children will be improved," said board Chairman Gail H. Nuckols.
The most audible note of dissent came from board member Margaret A. Bocek, who voted against three major funding categories, including the $80.1 million school operating fund. The food services fund, a $2 million account that pays for itself through fees from school lunches, was the only category adopted unanimously.
Bocek, the board's only Republican member, expressed reservations about some new items in the operating fund, including a $168,000 elementary guidance program and a series of teacher incentives such as sabbaticals. She argued that the board should instead fund items that directly affect classroom instruction.
The budget request represents a 5.4 percent increase over the current year's budget of $83.2 million. It would require $66 million in local funds, $2.6 million more than the County Board's suggested spending guideline.
"The county has a lot of commitment to both attracting and keeping young families, and I feel confident they will do all they can to fund our request," Nuckols said. The County Board is scheduled to adopt its budget April 26. The remainder of school funding comes from tuition, rentals and state and federal sources.
The board voted to raise starting salaries from $18,670 this year to $20,100, including a cost-of-living increase that will be set later by the School Board and County Board. Under the proposal, the ratio between steps of the salary scale would remain constant: Experienced teachers would benefit as much as starting teachers from the salary boosts.
Pfoutz hailed this move, saying it sent teachers a message that "to those of you who are already here, we value you as well."
Mitchell praised the new instructional programs but cautioned that more money will have to be spent in future years to fix peeling paint, raggedy lawns and cracked plexiglass in some school buildings.
Such capital improvements "are a concern we certainly share," said Nuckols. "But when you are a school board, you really feel your major thrust is doing things directly for kids."