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FCPS Superintendent Proposes Slashing 731 Positions, Increasing Class Sizes

Cites increased student enrollment, retirement rate costs and health insurance rates.

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza; photo provided
FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza; photo provided

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Karen K. Garza on Thursday night released the school system’s FY 2015 Proposed Budget of $2.5 billion, a net increase of 2.4 percent, or $59.4 million, from the FY 2014 Approved Budget, according to a news release from FCPS.

School officials say the increased spending will, in part, be off-set by cuts of $96 million in other areas, such as the slashing of more than 730 jobs district-wide.

The budget also:

1. adds $4.2 million in new fees for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests 

2. increases fees for community use of FCPS facilities

3. includes a proposed step increase for eligible employees of $41.0 million.

“The FY 2015 Proposed Budget uses a shared approach of reducing expenditures and requesting additional revenue while protecting the classroom and programs for students as much as possible,” Garza said in the news release.

“While we have reduced and streamlined our operations over the past several budget cycles, we are facing a number of increased expenditures that are beyond our control, including annual growth in student enrollment, an increase in health insurance rates, and an increase in the required contributions to the Virginia Retirement System," she said.

”The FY 2015 budget was developed with significant input from many stakeholders, including members of the Fairfax County School Board, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, parent and employee associations and advisory councils, and members of the community during the Superintendent’s listening tours," she said. "Overall, nearly 100 meetings were held to gather input to assist the school division in addressing financial challenges. As a result, the school division developed a menu of potential cuts, many of which are contained within the proposed budget.

Since FY 2010, student enrollment has grown by 15,603 students, FCPS noted in the news release, "more than the total enrollment of Alexandria City Public Schools" and is projected to be at a total of 187,994 students for FY 2015.
This enrollment growth, and the changing demographics associated with it, will require an additional $25.8 million in school-based resources.            

Increases in retirement rate costs are estimated to be $38.9 million and increases in health insurance rates are estimated to be $23.9 million. Among the Superintendent’s proposed reductions are:
  • Eliminating 82.0 positions from central support, which includes the costs associated with support services for finance, human resources, information technology, purchasing, facilities, and administration. The central support budget is reduced by 6 percent, or $13.4 million.
  • Eliminating 180.5 positions from school support including assistant principals, technology specialists, school clerical employees, and custodians. The administrative intern program would also be eliminated. For central support and school support positions, FCPS will work to place impacted employees in other positions, when it is possible, based on vacancies. The school support budget is reduced by 3 percent, or $17.1 million.
  • Eliminating 468.7 classroom positions by increasing class sizes and reducing needs-based staffing, instructional assistants, and the career and transition program. To help mitigate the class size increases, 20 positions are added to the staffing reserve specifically to address recurring larger class sizes at a limited number of schools. For teacher scale positions, the reductions are offset by overall staffing increases needed to accommodate enrollment growth and by typical annual turnover. Classroom reductions represent 2 percent, or $36 million, of the classroom budget.
Some of the proposed reductions were adopted from the State School Efficiency Review, including a reduction of assistant principals at smaller elementary and middle schools, adjustments to clerical staffing at the elementary level, and a reduction in the number of custodial positions.

“Because of actions taken in past years, including pay freezes (in FY 2010 and FY 2011), and elimination of step increases during FY 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014, we are particularly aware of the need to include a step increase in the FY 2015 budget,” explained Garza. 

“Currently, our starting teacher salaries are competitive with other districts in the region, but salaries for experienced teachers have fallen way behind those jurisdictions. If we hope to retain seasoned educational professionals, then we need to ensure that FCPS salaries remain competitive.”            

FCPS has, in recent years, taken a number of proactive steps to address budget challenges. The school district has targeted cost savings and avoidances, reallocated resources, reorganized, consolidated, reduced, and eliminated programs in both central support and schools. As a result, FCPS’ cost per pupil—an indicator of operational efficiency—has remained in the middle when compared to other school districts in the metropolitan area and increased just $128, or 1.0 percent, between FY 2008 and FY 2015. 

FCPS also has the lowest percentage of leadership and management positions to total positions of all metropolitan area school districts, the news release points out.

The Superintendent’s proposed budget includes a request of an additional $98.1 million, or 5.7 percent, over FY 2014 from Fairfax County to fund the uncontrollable costs of enrollment growth and state-mandated retirement rates and reduce the ongoing structural deficit created by using one-time, year-end balances to pay for recurring expenses.

FCPS proposes that nearly 72 percent of projected revenue will be provided by Fairfax County. The County provides additional support for programs such as Head Start, school health, school resource officers, school crossing guards, after-school programming, field maintenance, and recreational programs.            

Currently, the school district anticipates receiving state aid of $375.9 million, state sales tax of $171.7 million, federal aid of $42.0 million, and tuition payments from the City of Fairfax and other revenue (out-of-county tuition, cable communications, etc.) of $66.6 million. 

The FY 2015 budget was prepared with a projected beginning balance of $48.5 million. The presentation of the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget is only the starting point of the budget process, which ends in May with the School Board’s adoption of the Approved Budget.

The Fairfax County School Board will hold public hearings on the FY 2015 budget on January 27 and 28, and a budget work session on Jan. 30. The School Board will present its budget to the County Board of Supervisors on April 8. Additional information about participating in the FY 2015 budget process and a list of important dates is available online. Information and updates about the FY 2015 budget can be found online.

What do you think of the proposal? If you don't like it, what would you change?
Andrew Freeman January 12, 2014 at 01:37 PM
God forbid the county attempt to raise revenue to address the shortfall. If only Fairfax were the RICHEST county in the world.
john January 12, 2014 at 08:44 PM
They did raise revenue. The budget is *UP* 2.5%. Student enrollment is up only 0.5%. There are no funds cut, just priority calls made. The bureaucracy is funding pet projects at the expense of classrooms.

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