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Schools Want More Revenue. What's New?

In an “information item” at the Arlington School Board’s November 15, 2011 (agenda item G.3.of the agenda), the Board received the following motion:

“I move to direct the Superintendent to develop the fiscal 2013 budget based on the County Manager’s proposal to allocate 46.1 percent of total local tax revenue to Arlington Public Schools. If the Superintendent determines that this funding is not sufficient for APS to properly meet the needs of our students, the Superintendent will identify those needs in his proposed budget. After evaluating any unmet needs, the School Board will decide whether to submit a request for additional funding to the County Board.”

One elected eminence quipped to me that it was essentially a return to the days before the "revenue sharing agreement."

On Friday, Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette reported on the the action by the School Board, concluding his report by writing:

“More than a decade ago, after years of annual wrangling over what amount was sufficient, School Board and County Board members agreed on a complex, multi-step formula to determine what percentage of government funds would be funneled to school operations each year.

“Rising real estate values through the first part of the 2000s made both the county government and, through the revenue-sharing agreement, the school system flush with enough cash to make Arlington the highest-spending school district, on a per-student basis, in the region and across the commonwealth. But then the economic recession hit, and school funding fell just as the student population started to grow significantly.

“For fiscal 2013, which begins next July, County Manager Barbara Donnellan has proposed allocating 46.1 percent of total local tax revenue to fund school operations. The actual dollar amount won’t be known until much later in the budget process.

“For the current fiscal year, the transfer totals more than $385 million, up 7 percent from the year before, plus an additional one-time payment of $6.8 million. The overall school system budget for the current fiscal year is about $475 million.

“Over the past 10 years, the county’s transfer payment to the schools has increased on a per-student basis by nearly 60 percent, county officials say.

“The final decision on how much money the school system will receive out of the county government’s coffers will rest with the County Board. County Board members are expected to meet with their School Board counterparts in late November, where the issue may come up.”

At the moment, we can’t comment on the numbers underlying the nearly 60% increase in the county’s transfer payment. However, it’s worth noting that the 10-year period coincided with the the large growth of real estate values in the county.

The two boards do indeed have a work session scheduled for Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. (requires Adobe) in the County Board Room 307, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard. The meeting is open to the public although there is no public comment.


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