Schools Officials: Fairfax County Budget Proposal Falls Short

Superintendent Jack Dale, some school board members say lower-than-expected increase in transfer from the county won't meet classroom needs.

Fairfax County schools officials said Tuesday they were surprised at County Executive Ed Long's lower-than-expected proposed increase in transfer to the school system, which will leave school board $62 million short on their own Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Just more than half of the county's revenues go toward Fairfax County Public Schools each year; nearly three quarters of the school system's annual budget relies on a transfer from the county. 

Long's proposed $7 billion budget includes an increase of 2 percent in transfer to Fairfax County Public Schools, or $33.7 million.

Schools officials requested $95 million, a 5.7 percent increase in transfer, for a total of $1.78 billion in FY 2014, largely to fund what is expected to be an unprecedented growth in student enrollment across the county over the next decade.

At a joint meeting between the school board and the county's Board of Supervisors in November, the county said it would like to give the system about an increase of about 5 percent, or $84.2 million, in fiscal year 2014. 

That amount, though, was part of  a picture that also had the county at a shortfall of $170 million. Staff also told schools officials they would be looking at lesser transfer increases, and even at keeping the transfer flat, they said Tuesday.

“I think we made it pretty clear in November that we did not have 5 percent to give the school board,” Long said.

Schools officials said Tuesday the new projections came as a bit of a surprise.

"Only a couple months ago we were given such a disparate estimate of a 5 percent increase. We would have approached our advertised budget (which essentially hold services at current levels) much differently had we known this was coming," School board member Ryan McElveen (At-large) wrote in an email to Patch.

Superintendent Jack Dale says he appreciates Long's "diligence in crafting a budget proposal under challenging economic conditions coupled with the unknowns surrounding sequestration."

"However, the proposed transfer for schools falls short of what I believe is required to provide for the additional staffing needed to accommodate the enrollment growth forecast for next year, the cost of state mandated Virginia Retirement System changes, and a small, but much needed increase in compensation for teachers," he said in an email to Patch. "I’m hopeful the Board of Supervisors will recognize that the School Board’s advertised budget is not a wish list but rather a modest plan that addresses immediate classroom needs."

County teachers who are members of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers held a town hall Monday night to address teacher workload. The workload issue, along with compensation, were some of the priorities outlined in the schools budget this year.

The County is planning to host an Ask Fairfax Online Chat with Long at 9:30 a.m. Thursday (follow the link to join the chat).

The county's first public hearing on the budget is at 6 p.m. April 9.


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