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Pupils up, spending down for proposal

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Winchester schools' 2012 budget reflects drop in money spent

By Alex Bridges-abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Spending by the city school system keeps falling even as it adds pupils.

The trend would continue according to Superintendent Rick Leonard's proposed budget for fiscal 2012, which he presented to the School Board on Monday.

His proposal reflects an operating budget that is $780,388, or 1.72 percent, below the current fiscal cycle.

No one spoke at the public hearing held on the proposed budget.

As Leonard explained Tuesday, the financial plan reflects a "revenue neutral" budget that takes into account funding requests made by officials at the schools and the administration.

Employees would receive no salary increase under his $44.52 million proposal. However, the budget as proposed calls for the school system to add five teachers, two bus drivers and two teaching assistants.

The total consists of $25.35 million in local funds, $15.94 million from the state and $2.94 million in federal sources.

Local funding has remained flat in the past two budget cycles compared to $27.41 million appropriated by the council in fiscal 2009. That amount marked an increase from $26.45 million from the previous year.

State funding will increase by $614,227 in part because the system anticipates enrolling more pupils in the next year.

However, the school division must pay an additional $575,800 into the Virginia Retirement System, a 2.4 percent increase over what it currently spends, nearly eliminating the state funding boost.

"Federal funds did what they were designed to do: They helped bridge public education for a couple of years," Leonard said Tuesday. "But, again, those dollars are no more so, as we watched anxiously to what would happen at the state level, the state also is still suffering from revenue shortfalls."

Amendments to the state's biennial budget approved by the General Assembly and other reductions in funding left city schools with a deficit of $2.3 million.

Leonard's proposal reflects cuts needed to balance a budget based on less revenue from the state and no new funding from the city. The School Board's finance committee had discussed some of the cuts at its meeting March 4.

The budget discussions began Jan. 4 with officials assuming the council would not increase its share of funding beyond the $25.4 million appropriated in the current budget cycle.

Data presented Monday show the school system's operating budget has gone from $42.7 million in fiscal 2007 to a high of $47.7 million two years later.

Since then, spending by the schools has fallen to $46.22 million in fiscal 2010 and $45.3 million in the current cycle.

At the same time, average daily enrollment went from about 3,750 in fiscal 2007 to a low of 3,650, data showed. Since then, however, average daily enrollment rose to 3,715 in fiscal 2009, then 3,745 the next year then to 3,800 in the current cycle. The fiscal 2012 budget accounts for an estimated average daily enrollment of about 3,820 pupils.

The city's cost per pupil has fallen from a high of $12,396 in fiscal 2009 to $11,868 currently.

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