Updated 11 a.m. Friday to clarify raise information.
The Fairfax County Public School Board adopted a $2.6 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2016 on Thursday, which will allow for small pay increases for all employees.
The raises — though very small at 0.62 percent — are still bigger than FCPS has been able to give in recent years. Schools spokesman John Torre said all eligible employees will get a step salary increase along with the 0.62 market scale scale adjustment. Combined, it will be about a 3.1 percent increase.
Superintendent Karen Garza said earlier FCPS needed additional money to give a market scale increase of 1 percent. The FY 2016 budget is an increase of $53.9 million, or 2.2 percent, over the FY 2015 Approved Budget.
The budget includes an increase in the Fairfax County transfer to the School Operating Fund of 3.2 percent, or $56.7 million, above the FY 2015 Approved Budget, which is $14.0 million less than requested in FCPS’ Advertised Budget, FCPS said.
The shortfall will be partially offset by an increase in state aid and a reduction in the employer contribution to the Virginia Retirement System, FCPS says.
The board still needed to slash an additional $7.6 million, which they say was achieved by reducing the planned 1.0 percent market scale adjustment for employees.
“This year’s revenue shortfall did not allow us to provide the full 1.0 percent market scale adjustment for employees that we had hoped we could fund, however, we remain resolved and dedicated to have employee compensation competitive with our neighboring school districts,” School Board Chair Tammy Derenak Kaufax said in a statement. “It is critical that we attract and retain the talented and skilled workforce necessary to support the increasing educational needs of our growing student population.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed its budget three weeks ago. In it, they approved a $2 billion transfer for Fairfax County Public Schools. That amount was a $66.7 million increase over 2015 but still about $14 million short of what FCPS says it needs for programs and teacher raises.
Garza said then that the supervisors were “unconcerned” about FCPS.
“Supervisors are sending a clear message that they are unconcerned about the increasing challenges of our students, our teachers, and our schools,” said Garza. “The supervisors refused to fully fund our budget for the 2015-16 school year (FY 2016), when faced with a nominal $7.6 million deficit. We have grave concerns as to what will happen in the 2016-17 (FY 2017) school year when we face a devastating shortfall of more than $100 million.”
“The entire Fairfax County community has a critical decision to make: either we invest the necessary funds in our students and schools, or we will have to work together to decide what to cut – and we cannot cut our way to excellence.”
With a growing school population and stagnant employee salaries that are lower than nearby those in nearby Loudoun and Arlington counties, Garza predicts the issue will only get worse by 2016-17. She has forecasted a $100 million budget shortfall for the schools in 2017 and the cutting of programs.
“These cuts will likely affect all current academic programming, including limiting elective choices, reducing career and technical programs, impacting advanced offerings, and again raising class sizes at all levels,” she said, adding that those decisions will come as soon as December 2015.
In recent weeks, a Facebook page called #SAVEFCPS, started by a community member, has gained strength to advocate for an increase for school employees.
Board member Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) made a late amendment to the 2016 budget in the hopes of finding the money for employee raises. Her plan included saving $5 million by having students pay for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test fees. It did not pass in the final vote.
The Board did approve two follow-on motions: to direct the Superintendent “to develop an FY 2017 Proposed Budget that includes compensation increases for employees; and to direct the Superintendent, in the preparation of the FY 2017 budget, to thoroughly analyze all Division operating expenditure budgets to identify any potential cost savings and/or reductions using a methodology commensurate to that of zero-based budgeting.”
The FY 2016 Approved Budget, which takes effect July 1, provides for an additional $22.1 million to cover the cost of enrollment increases and demographic changes, $4.9 million to implement the new start time schedule for students this fall, and $3.9 million to address large class sizes in targeted elementary schools.
The Approved Budget contains reductions totaling $61.4 million. Since 2008, FCPS has reduced its operating budget by nearly half a billion dollars and eliminated more than 2,175 positions, FCPS says.