RICHMOND, DEC. 21 -- A legislative watchdog agency's ideas on how to revamp the state's formula to help local school systems pay the cost of meeting state-imposed Standards of Quality in public schools prompted worried local officials today to seek further study.
A report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission staff, which proposes seven funding alternatives, needs more thorough review and shouldn't be acted on at the 1988 General Assembly session, the officials said at a public hearing.
The state's goal in funding the Standards of Quality should be full funding, not modifying the aid criteria, said Mary Collier, president of the Virginia School Boards Association and the Fairfax County School Board.
She and a number of officials complained that the data on which the commission report was based had not been made available to them since the document was released a month ago.
"We need facts in order to give you our best advice," Collier said.
The report attempts to address certain funding inequities among Virginia jurisdictions, including disparities in local per-pupil spending, widely varying transportation costs and high cost-of-living problems.
The commission staff noted that school expenses also can vary because of population, with rural areas seeing fewer economies of scale and urban areas facing greater costs through competition for teachers.
Officials in some western counties with stable or declining school populations complained that their localities would lose money while the "urban crescent" jurisdictions from the Washington suburbs to Hampton Roads would see major gains with many of the report's changes.
Among other things, commission members were told that their report did not take into consideration federal impact aid received by some school divisions with high numbers of military dependents. Also, the report ignored debts carried by localities for school construction, speakers said.
Dick Hall-Sizemore of the Virginia Association of Counties said many localities are in a financial crunch, and any loss in school aid would come at a bad time for preparing budgets next spring.
But the officials were uncertain about the size of their losses, and the commission's Philip A. Leone countered that some divisions would lose more money by keeping the existing formula than by implementing some of the revisions.
Since 1972, Standards of Quality funding to localities has been based on a composite index that considers real estate values, retail sales and other local revenue.