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FCPS Taking a Hard Look at Slashing $100M in Costs

by Karen Goff June 16, 2015 at 9:30 am 1,193 38 Comments

Superintendent Karen Garza/FCPSEliminate Advanced Academic Centers, elementary band and strings programs and speech therapists; go back to mini-Mondays; charge tuition for language immersion programs; and cut back the number of custodians and make kids clean the school.

Those are just a few of the dozens of citizen ideas on how Fairfax County Public Schools can save money.

The school system, which serves more than 180,000 students, put out the call for cost-saving ideas to residents last week.

Superintendent Karen Garza says FCPS will have a deficit of more than $100 million by 2016-17 if drastic measures are not taken.

“Without additional funding, FCPS will need to have some difficult and emotional conversations with the community to determine which programs to eliminate,” FCPS says. “If revenues do not increase, to balance the budget FCPS may have to eliminate and/or redesign programs and services for the 2016-17 school year.”

“These reductions may affect all academic programming, including limiting elective choices, reducing career and technical programs, impacting advanced offerings, and raising class sizes at all levels.”

The FCPS Board approved a $2.6 billion budget for 2015-16. The board still needed to cut $7 million from the budget in order to cover such items as earlier high school start times (going into effect in the fall), the expense of full-day Mondays for elementary schools, and staff pay increases.

In 2014, the school system eliminated more than 700 staff positions as Garza said FCPS was facing a $130 million deficit for 2015.

In addition to resident suggestions, FCPS is establishing a Budget Task Force, comprised of community and employee stakeholders to advise Garza in developing the FY 2017 budget.

FCPS says the Budget Task Force will be comprised of representatives identified by each School Board member; the Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; FCPS teacher, principal, and employee organizations; and community, business, and parent organizations.

The programs and services chosen to reduce, eliminate, or redesign would begin with the 2016-17 school year.

FCPS says it has made nearly $500 million in cuts since 2008. That includes the elimination of more than 2,100 positions while experiencing an enrollment growth of more than 22,000 students.

“It is not possible to maintain the level of excellence for which Fairfax County Public Schools is known when we are annually faced with making impactful cuts to the system,” Garza said in a statement. “While we have tried hard to protect the classroom to the fullest extent possible, we now have no choice but to consider cutting student programs and services.”

The Task Force will work this summer and make recommendations to the superintendent this fall for the completion of the Proposed Budget by the Superintendent in December.

The Task Force will be asked to prioritize items for reduction in scenarios of a $50 million deficit, a $75 million deficit, and a $100 million deficit.

The school system says many of the cost drivers for 2016-17 are “items outside of FCPS’ control, like retirement and enrollment increases, and providing competitive compensation for our teachers. FCPS the cost drivers include:

  • a growing student population with diverse needs.
  • increased state-required retirement contributions rates.
  • increased health insurance costs.
  • increased compensation for teachers.

FCPS also says the funding transfer from the Fairfax County government and money from the state are not keeping pace with the system’s needs.

Karen Garza/file photo

  • Reston Realist

    First comes the fear and nonsense.

    • Mike M

      … and then the stage is set for the curly turd partiers to take over.

      • Full Time Bowanker

        The time for.kaka finger painting is now!

      • Reston Realist

        Mike & FTB–Don’t care about your positions, but I do care about your language. PLEASE KEEP IT CLEAN.

    • Ming the Merciless

      And then comes the hand on your wallet.

      • Full Time Bowanker

        Curly turd partiers want to take you on a safari to kill some ISIL but keep them kids dumb at home (stone age). Then take up the refugees later. Makes perfect sense, stone age all over again.

  • Greg

    While we all know there are precious few street lights in Reston, thanks to Comrades Hudgins and Plum, but the FCPS can surely save some money by turning the ones at Armstrong off during daylight hours. I am sure this is a difficult-to-manage task, but it works!

  • meh

    “a growing student population with diverse needs”
    You say needs, I see nice to haves. Educating and feeding the citizens of Honduras, El Salvador and other nations shouldn’t be considered a need. Providing a gender confused locker room is a nice to have, not a need. Stop cutting core classes to cater to the fringe of society. It isn’t “fair” to the majority.

    • Guy Montag

      Listen, you need to have the gender confused locker rooms to avoid the lawsuits down the road. It’s the cost of doing business. However, I say they just report every child that’s getting a “reduced lunch” to INS and see if the problem goes away. While the child may or may not be legal there’s a good chance Abuelita isn’t

  • Guy Montag

    I have an idea, how about you cut back on ESL funding. This is America, you need to assimilate and welcome the culture change. My tax dollars shouldn’t be spent teaching people how to learn English

    • pleasebekidding

      “you need to assimilate and welcome the culture change”

      You’re being contradictory — they can only assimilate by learning english.

      • wtwesq

        Put your child in preschool and they learn English without even trying. They should then know English by the time they get to Kindergarten. Have your “foreign” children play with all kids. I see and know too many immigrant children that want to stick with their own kind. Everyone can cherish their heritage but don’t come to America to stick with your own kind.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Eliminate ESOL.

    • meh

      imagine if we spent those resources on giving extra help and services to children with a single parent. We would be actually be helping poor US families so their children might actually have a chance to escape poverty.

  • Rex Cramer

    “It is not possible to maintain the level of excellence for which
    Fairfax County Public Schools is known when we are annually faced with
    making impactful cuts to the system,”

    Then why try. Who cares about the children and education.

    Easy steps to cut education budget.

    1) Increase class sizes. This will allow you to operate with fewer staff thus saving you money.

    2) Decrease pay across the board. Cut teacher pay, and cut admin staff pay. Less pay saves you money.

    3) Eliminate arts, band, music, drama, languages, and sports. Focus only on Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Eliminating useless curriculum saves money.. No specialized teachers, books, or other crap that goes along with it.

    • pleasebekidding

      I wouldn’t want to go to this school you have concocted. Teachers that don’t care and quit, too many distractions for children, and completely ignoring arts, culture, and camaraderie. No, thank you.

      • Ming the Merciless

        When your household budget gets tight, do you still eat out and go to the movies? (Hint: you shouldn’t.)

        There are many, many opportunities for kids to experience art, culture, and sport in this area if they don’t get it at school.

        • Guy Montag

          Lots of culture in South Reston

        • pleasebekidding

          If you have the means to do so (transportation, money, etc.), then sure. If not, we have and should rely on public schools. I don’t see a utilitarian and straight-laced education system as being the best for our society.

          Save money by cutting from the excessive waste in the administrative (not teacher) level — and I don’t just mean salaries, but across the board reduction in staffing. Why should a school have six principals, for example?

          And please don’t talk down to me – I understand how to manage my own budget. I didn’t say cuts weren’t needed, I simply don’t believe in cutting things because they are “easy” and “coincidently” only affect minorities and the poor.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Your response to Rex Cramer was plenty condescending.

            And why do you think cutting arts, band, music, drama, languages, and sports only affects minorities and the poor?

          • Ricky Spanish

            Would not cuts to education effect every child not just the poor and minorities?

          • pleasebekidding

            Yes, they would — completely!

            But cutting extracurriculars, as people here have suggested, primarily don’t affect the middle/middle-upper class:
            – Cutting ESOL classes affects only minorities, yet they are to somehow “assimilate into society” without learning the language. Yet, clearly people here will continue to push them into the dirt because the “need to speak english,” but have no means to learn. Isn’t this a country of immigrants?
            – Cutting sports, music, arts, etc. with the solution to “go out and get it yourself” primarily will affect those who cannot afford to do so. Whether it be transportation to/from, parents that have flexible hours or a parent that can afford to be a stay-at-home, or paying additional fees for equipment and participation.

      • Rex Cramer

        Then increase the Fairfax County Real Estate (base rate) from $1.090 per $100 assessed value to $1.150 per $100 assessed. That should more than make up for the $100 Million budget shortfall. This isn’t rocket science Mrs. PleaseBeKidding

        Let me simplify it for you: Ain’t got nuff money, stop spending, or get mo’money

        • pleasebekidding

          I have said here before and will say so again. We should cut spending at the admin level to make up the budget shortfall and not increase taxes or punish our teachers and students.

          I understand how budgets work and have proposed an alternative to yours, which I believe would bring more long-term harm than good.

  • Ming the Merciless

    In 2014, the school system eliminated more than 700 staff positions as Garza said FCPS was facing a $130 million deficit that year.

    The article you linked to says the school system MAY cut 700 positions, not that they actually did it. Did they actually do it?

    The FY15 budget says they have 23,447 positions.
    The FY14 budget says they have 23,831 positions.
    The FY13 budget says they have 23,528 positions.

    So relative to FY13 they have lost budget for 81 positions.

    • Karen Goff

      Yes, they actually did. Not layoffs, just eliminated the positions through attrition, etc. It’s part of the “2,100 positions since 2008,” to which Garza is referring.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Link?

        If their staffing level stays the same, that doesn’t count as “eliminating positions” in my world.

        If your problem is $100 million in a $2,600 million budget… so you are getting 96% of what you want… you don’t really have a big problem, do you?

        • Karen Goff
          • Ming the Merciless

            That links to the proposed budget – what the county may do – not the approved budget.

            Moreover, this oft-quoted figure always leaves out the fact that they also ADDED positions, so the NET decrease was less than 731.

            From the proposed budget document (emphasis added):

            “After accounting for budget reductions and positions added to address enrollment growth, positions will decrease by a net of 336.9…”

            (In the approved version the net decrease was 315 positions.)

  • Richard

    How about this idea? Press the Fairfax County Commissioners to fully fund the school board’s budget. There is nothing more important to our standard of living in Fairfax County and the business growth that comes with it than having a top-notch school system. If it takes higher taxes to do it, charge them. As residents of one of the wealthiest counties in the country, Fairfax County property owners can afford them.

    • Guy Montag

      Glad you can speak for every property owner and know how they feel tax resources should be spent. Let me guess, give a ton of it to the teachers union and middle management. Throwing more money at the problem doesn’t fix it.

      • Richard

        By definition, fully-funding the deficit does indeed solve the problem. After slashing per-capita spending on education for years now, it’s time to stop. A quality education system is Fairfax County’s single most important asset and one of the most attractive points about living here. Folks like you will never be satisfied. Cut, cut, cut to zero. You’ll always have an excuse to cut.

      • tforna

        There are no teachers unions in Virginia!

    • Sean

      I agree 100% Richard

  • east297

    How about cutting salaries of school board members! And cutting admin staff! Why is it always the kids or teachers who have to suffer? Plenty of money to increase salaries of Fairfax Co Board of Supervisors. It is atrocious the redundancy and waste in the county. Also let churches and other organizations feed breakfast and lunch to the indigent not the county.

  • Delsin Rowe

    They spent money to get rid of mini-Mondays, which I opposed.
    High school start times are going to be later, and has more than monetary costs. Middle school start times are going to be earlier. More of a problem shift than a problem solved.
    The teacher pay increase was insufficient, and the school board should not have had a pay increase.
    School has been in lame duck session for the last three weeks, instead of closed and allowing summer vacation to begin.
    Ramble and rant over…

  • wtwesq

    I frankly just do not know where my tax money is going. Potholes everywhere, 6 traffic lights installed on Route 50 after spending millions on an underpass on Gallows Road (and that’s just one example of inept traffic planning), schools that are falling apart. Looking at the FCPS budget overview, it is hard to tell what programs really cost. Yes, a large part of the budget goes to teacher salaries and special education costs a lot, but what exactly is the breakdown on the special education? That does not seem clear. This is all just wonderful immigration control, however. Why would you ever move to Fairfax County at this point in time? Businesses: do not invest in Fairfax County; your employees will just be stuck in traffic.

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