School Budget Process Scolded as Prince William Officials Adopt Advertised 2015 Tax Rate
Officials took issue with how the Prince William County Public School System budgets its money.
The County’s Board of Supervisors, the taxing authority, on Tuesday set the advertised property tax rate at $1.158 per $100 of assessed value for the FY2015 budget. While the final tax rate won’t be adopted until April, tax revenues collected under the tax rate of $862.3 million will go to fund the operation of county government, and 57.23% of it automatically will go to fund schools.
The advertised tax rate would be enough to backfill some of the school division’s $8.7 million projected budget shortfall over the next five years. That’s money that would be used to pay teachers and to reduce the average teacher per student ratio in classrooms (Prince William County currently has the largest average class size in the Washington, D.C. region.)
The average residential tax bill would increase 5.4% topping out at $3,599 per household if the advertised rate is adopted by the budget deadline in April.
Starting from zero
School officials this week told the Board of Supervisors that while the have a balanced budget as required by law, many of the division’s needs – like replacing new roofs, boilers, and other general school building renovations in their capital improvement plan, teacher pay raises, and funds for telephone system replacement and wireless internet connectivity in schools – remain unfunded to the tune of $20 to $60 million.
The Board of Supervisors responded and put increased pressure on the school division to change its budget process, as it has, and develop a zero-based budget where no monies from any department are carried over from the previous year. The School Board in March is set to vote to hire an outside contractor to help it begin the process of developing such a budget, said Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns.
Monies left over
Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland on Tuesday read aloud some of the school division’s budgeted numbers and compared them with the actual monies spent, and each category Candland chose to highlight showed carryover funds he says could have went to reduce class sizes and give raises to teachers.
Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi agreed.
“…the desire of this Board is that [the School Board] drill down and do some zero-based budgeting because the budget to actual numbers that he presented are just not acceptable,” said Principi.
The School Board is expected to make present their budget in April after they learn how much funding will come from state and local governments.