Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Pam Moran presented the School Board with a $164.28 million budget proposal Thursday. The needs-based plan represents a nearly six percent increase from last year’s $155.3 million budget.

However, with revenues projected to grow by only one percent, to $157.3 million, Albemarle is predicting deficit of nearly $7 million. Among the factors contributing to the projected deficit, Moran said, are mandates, enrollment increases, and a slashing of the division’s fund balance.

The division is responsible for an additional $2.3 million to meet new Virginia Retirement System requirements, and, as directed by the School Board, another $3.2 million for a two percent raise in employee pay and to support projected increases in health insurance premiums.

Enrollment is projected to jump 130 students next year, which translates to a 669 student increase since the 2008-09 school year.

Moran also said that the division’s fund balance has been slashed in recent years, citing a $1.7 million transfer as directed by the Board of Supervisors, and a $1.5 million loss in savings due to a 75 percent drop in employee turnover.  With employee turnover and retirements, new staff are often hired at a lower position on the pay scale resulting in payroll savings.

In case new revenue doesn’t come, Board member Steve Koleszar said he’d like to see the implications of a staffing formula adjustment that would increase class sizes by about 1 student. Assistant Superintendent Billy Haun said that would result in one additional student in elementary classrooms, and up to three new students in some middle and high school classes, depending on the subject.

Board member Eric Strucko said he wants to see any cuts made outside the classroom.

The School Board will begin discussing the budget in detail on January 23, and there will be a public hearing on Jan 30.