Arlington School Board Budget Muddled

Comments At Arlington Tax Hearing, April 4, 2024.

In a February 29, 2024 presentation school Superintendant Francisco Duran projected a FY25 school budget deficit of $29.5 million and argued for a 2.5 cent tax rate hike or 1 cent above what the County Manager himself has proposed. Even with 2.5 cent tax rate hike and $10 million of additional money from the state, Duran projects a $3.4 million deficit.

Duran’s numbers appear muddled. On the one hand he lists $25.1 million in unfunded core needs (Duran, p. 26). He also says that the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) “estimates that annually APS is underfunded by approximately $51 million” (Duran, p.27).  Elsewhere he puts the gap between revenues and expenses at $29.5 million (Duran, p.34).

Among unfunded core needs, Duran lists an “$11.8M Additional 2% cost of living increase for staff to provide a 5.3% average compensation increase, which would advance our goal of being in the top three local school divisions for compensation, (Duran, p. 26)”.

This number is suspect inasmuch as the FY 2024 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide reports that average Arlington teacher salary at $92,118 is just under highest ranking Falls Church at $92,130 and more than $6,000 per year higher than Fairfax County at $86,026 (WABE, p.38).

Another suspect wish list item is “$8.7M Reduce class size by 2 (83.10 FTE) (Duran, p. 26)”. Why does Arlington need to reduce its class size by 2 when the WABE Guide indicates that Arlington has the lowest middle school and secondary class sizes of any NoVA school district? (WABE, p. 29).

Bottom line. Duran’s projections should not be used without more to justify a tax hike.