Thu May 09, 2013
Wed May 08, 2013
Mon May 06, 2013
Faced with a projected 2011-12 operating budget gap of $21-$22 million, Superintendent Richard Bentley and the Budget Resource Allocation Team are preparing to deliver a series of carefully researched recommendations and options to the School Board on Wednesday night, February 16.
Their task was exceptionally difficult because this the second year in a row Norfolk Public Schools has been hit with large reductions in state funding for PreK-12 education, along with expected increases in costs such as Virginia Retirement System contributions and health insurance premiums for employees. For the current fiscal year, operating budget expenses were reduced by nearly $30 million, and 387 positions were eliminated. Almost all of the people affected were offered different positions, which was possible due to attrition.
The City of Norfolk so far has committed to level funding of $104.5 million for next fiscal year.
To undertake the task of creating a balanced budget proposal, Dr. Bentley convened a representative team with division chiefs, department heads, principals, teachers and association representatives. The Budget Resource Allocation Team has been meeting since October, and has convened frequently since January.
In directing the team’s work, Dr. Bentley said, "Remember that we’ve got to focus on students, teachers and schools."
As part of the budget team’s collaborative process, department leaders were asked to meet with their teams to gain input on reductions. The budget team looked closely at the shrinking number of positions funded under the state Standards of Quality (SOQ).
Also, all NPS programs were evaluated on a four-tiered scale, based on how closely aligned they are with core instructional requirements. Those inside the core, or tier 1, are required to meet federal, state and local laws or division policies and regulations. Those in tier 2 support the requirements and the division’s Achievable Results. Those in tier 3 support the requirements and achievable results, but may duplicate services. Those in tier 4 are not required and, if eliminated, would not diminish progress toward the Achievable Results.
Based on that analysis, the representative team has been able to reach consensus on $15.8 million in proposed reductions that will be delivered to the School Board on February 16. The proposals will include both programs and staff positions. Salaries and benefits make up approximately 85 percent of the school division’s operating budget.
Positions will be reduced in accordance with Norfolk Public Schools’ Reduction in Force policy. It is expected that, like last year, many of those affected by staff cuts may be able to move into other positions created by attrition, depending upon their qualifications.
The representative team also developed several options for the School Board to consider. The options include additional program and position eliminations, as well as school consolidations, which would bring the total budget reductions to $21 million. These options also will be delivered to the Board on February 16.
The Board is not scheduled to discuss the recommendations and options at that time, but just to receive them for review.
Then, on February 23, during a School Board work session, Dr. Bentley and the budget team will formally present the recommendations and additional options, and will begin receiving questions, input and direction from the Board.
The School Board then is scheduled for work sessions to discuss the budget on March 2 and March 8.
In the coming weeks, there will be opportunities for concerned members of the staff and public to weigh in, particularly via a School Board public hearing on March 8 at 7 p.m. at Lake Taylor High School. The Superintendent and School Board also will welcome comments throughout the budget process via www.npsk12.com/feedback.
The School Board must approve a final 2011-12 Operating Budget in time to deliver it to the City Council by April 1.