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Arlington County Civic Federation

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ACCF Reports and Resolutions on Capital Spending
by the Schools and the County

Resolution adopted June 4, 2002

Schools Committee Report on FY2003 Budget

The School Board has adopted a proposed budget of $295.6 million. This is an increase of $21.9 million or 8% over the current budget of $273.7 million.

Most of the increase is in the school operating fund. The largest part of this increase relates to the costs of continuing present services in FY2003 ($9.4 million) and for a teacher pay increase ($6.9 million), the first step of the Superintendent's proposed 3-year Teacher Excellence Initiative.

An increase of $1.65 million is due to the increased cost of debt service.

All of the revenues received by the schools from whatever source are based on various formulas determined by the federal, state, and county governments. The largest amount of revenue comes from the formula agreed to by the County and School Board that allots 48.6% of county revenues to the School Board. At the existing tax rates and revenue forecasts, this is estimated to be $231.7 million, or 78% of the proposed budget.

The proposed school budget for the first time includes a reserve fund of $5 million. The reserve fund represents additional anticipated revenue due to the schools, based on projections provided by the County in January 2002. Potential uses could be the establishment of a permanent reserve fund, implementing the final phase of the VRS employee pickup, purchasing one-time items such as textbooks, or enhancing the compensation adjustment. (See Schools Committee recommendation in #3 below)

Now that the County Board has joined the federal and state governments in allocating funds to the School Board according to a formula, the Civic Federation Schools Committee s approach to analyzing the budget has changed. It is likely to change more, if the allocation of County funds by formula becomes a permanent feature of local public school finance.

The Schools Committee of the Arlington County Civic Federation, having reviewed the proposed FY 2003 budget for the Arlington Public Schools ( APS ), makes the following findings and recommendations:

    1. Teacher Pay Initiative. We endorse the allocation of $ 6.9 million for teacher pay raises, as the School Board has proposed. We agree with the School Board that teachers are the most important variable in delivering quality education. The budgeted pay raise is an important step that clearly demonstrates to current and prospective Arlington teachers the respect and interest the entire community has in them. However, we are not persuaded that, as the Superintendent has proposed, Arlington s teacher salary schedule must be the highest in the metropolitan area at every step and in every lane of the pay schedule. We endorse the proposed budget allocation, as the $6.8 million for pay raises will not make APS the highest paying jurisdiction across the board. APS should offer a competitive compensation and benefits package that also recognizes factors such as favorable school climate, small class size, opportunities for professional development, teacher resources, a safe environment, and other considerations. At present, however, APS appears to have no difficulty either in attracting the kind of teachers it wants, or in retaining them.1

    The first year of the Superintendent s Teacher Excellence Initiative addresses only a pay raise. Other aspects of a comprehensive package are only vaguely mentioned, and are postponed for development and action over the next few years. The Superintendent should include in future versions of the Initiative a definition of excellence, and measurement factors for achieving it.

    2. Early Childhood Initiative. We endorse the $289,000 budget initiative to provide educational opportunities for at-risk three and four-year-olds. The earlier that APS addresses the issue of achievement gaps, the more quickly they can be eliminated.

    3. Reserve Operating Fund and Construction Fund Carry Forward. The School Board has proposed a $ 5 million reserve fund and a $ 1.1 million carry forward for the Capital Projects (construction) fund, based on anticipated increases in County revenues and APS s share of those revenues under the existing revenue sharing agreement. We endorse the concept of a reserve fund in the context of a revenue sharing agreement with the County. This will be the first time that APS will have a reserve fund. However, we support restricting the use of the reserve fund for unexpected financial contingencies. We disagree with the Superintendent s proposal to make the fund available for one time expenditures or accelerated funding of previously planned expenditures.

    4. High School SOL Remediation. We endorse the $62,900 budget initiative to add 1.2 certified reading teachers in the ninth grade to make available a reading elective for students who failed the eighth grade reading and/or writing SOLs. The needs of students who must pass the SOLs in the next few years or fail to graduate must receive attention. Certified reading teachers are a good, but small, step in that direction. However, APS should obtain and analyze additional information regarding why these students reach ninth grade without being able to read successfully.

    5. Programs Not Funded by Planning Factors. Over time, Arlington Schools have developed planning factor formulas to staff and fund schools. These planning factors are based on the number and mix of students and thus are recognized as a way to foster an equitable distribution of resources system-wide. In addition, over time there have been school positions and funding added that are not based on such planning factors. We recommend that the School Board direct staff to identify positions and programs funded by APS that do not flow from district-wide planning factors before the next budget submission (FY2004). Recognizing the need for equal treatment among schools, the committee recommends that staff establish district-wide planning factors for those identified items or justify the identified differential. We believe this will result in making the School Board's intent more transparent to the school community and allow funding to be more equitably applied. This should not preclude pilot programs, but such programs should not become permanent unless incorporated in a new system- wide planning factor or be otherwise justified.

1 See Civic Federation Resolution #2002-02-01 of February 5, 2002, calling for the School Board to develop or better utilize a management information system that will enable informed determinations as to whether a proposed salary schedule is likely to achieve its stated recruitment and retention purposes.

The Revenues and Expenditures Committee's Findings





FISCAL YEARS 2003 2008

JUNE 2, 2002


1. WHEREAS the Arlington County Civic Federation has long recommended significant changes in the manner in which County financial information is presented to the public and whereas it is important for the Federation to publicly recognize when improvements have occurred;

BE IT RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it commends the County Manager and County staff, especially the members of the Capital Action Team, for their improvements to the Capital Improvement Program process, including, but not limited to:

1. Separation of planning and design funds from construction funds;

2. Focus on "master planning"; and

3. Distinguishing between new projects and capital asset preservation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it thanks the members of the Capital Action Team for seeking public input, including input from Federation Delegates, into their review of the Capital Improvement Program process.


2. WHEREAS the full effects of existing improvements cannot be achieved until all of the recommendations of the Capital Action Team are implemented; including those recommendations that include concepts supported by the Federation in the past, such as publicizing a detailed financial and performance analysis of ongoing improvement projects;

BE IT RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it encourages the County Manager to complete expeditiously the adoption of the recommendations of the Capital Action Team and publicly announce a timetable for such adoption. In particular, the inventory of all County capital assets and their current status (e.g. needed repairs and renovations as well as use patterns) should be expeditiously completed and made available for public comment.

3. WHEREAS the credibility of the County's bonding process depends upon fully informed public understanding and participation;

BE IT RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it recommends to the Arlington County Board that it undertake an initiative so that voters may have more detailed information (e.g. the equivalent of 'home mortgage disclosure' information) on all bond issues approved for submission for public referendum.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it recommend to the County Board and the County Manager that it would be more beneficial for public participation to have preliminary estimated numbers or ranges of numbers, with appropriate qualifications noted, rather than to have no estimates at all.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it encourages the Arlington County Board to place funding for dissimilar projects (including non-coloctaed projects) into separate referendum issues.

4. Consistent with prior recommendations of the Federation which set the goal of achieving the most economical cost of financing, BE IT RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it transmit the following policy recommendations to the Arlington County Board: a) it supports bonded indebtedness not to exceed a period of twenty (20) years; b) it finds the justification for the proposed switch to variable rate financing to be inconclusive; and c) refinancing options for debt management should be a part of future Capital Improvement Program presentations.


5. BE IT RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it recommend to the County Board that in the future public hearings on the Capital Improvement Program not be scheduled to conflict with meetings of the Civic Federation so that many more concerned Arlingtonians may participate in those hearings.

6. WHEREAS the Neighborhood Conservation Program has long been supported by the Arlington County Civic Federation and others as a distinctive and unique method for managing selected improvements within the County with a maximum of public participation;

BE IT RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it recommend to the Arlington County Board that the County Manager be directed not to merge, as he has proposed, currently separate programs, such as street lighting or block improvement projects, into the jurisdiction of the Neighborhood Conservation Program.

7. WHEREAS the Arlington County Civic Federation has recommended that the County establish an explicit debt management plan with a maximum of public participation that would balance more effectively competing needs, and WHEREAS such a comprehensive plan would provide a cap on total bonded indebtedness and a prioritized list of projects to utilize the capacity remaining between the current level of debt and the debt ceiling; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the Arlington County Civic Federation that it recommend to the Arlington County Board that the November 2002 bond referendums not exceed $130 million until such a plan is in place.

This page was last revised on: December 27, 2003.
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