Save the Date: FCPS Community Budget Meeting at SLHS Sept. 9

South Lakes High School South Lakes High School will be the site of the first of two countywide community meetings on Fairfax County Public School’s cost-savings options for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 9, 7 to 9 p.m. The other meeting is Sept. 12 at Mount Vernon High School. Register to attend on the FCPS website.

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza says that the school system — which serves more than 180,000 students — may face a $100 million deficit if drastic action is not taken.

The school system often faces a deficit — this year’s was $7 million — and usually meets its budget without making major cuts and by compromising with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on funding for the schools.

However, Garza said the upcoming fiscal year is different — with cost drivers that are out of FCPS’ control. Among them: a growing student population with diverse needs;  increased state-required retirement contributions rates; increased health insurance costs; and increased compensation for teachers.

“We have an enormous challenge facing us as a school system,” Garza said in an FCPS interview.

A task force of community stakeholders — including school board members, citizen representatives, employee organizations, and FCPS employees, among others, has been meeting this summer to identify potential savings.

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. Garza says she expects to get the task force’s report in October, and a preliminary budget should be formulated by December.

FCPS has also been asking for online suggestions from citizens on its “What Are Your Ideas” page. Particular hot topics are eliminating some sports and arts activities; cutting down on late buses and transportation to Advanced Academic Programs; and forgoing the recent raise (to $20,000 annually) for school board members.

“The school board recently voted to give itself an 85 percent salary raise in the midst of a major budget crisis,” wrote one commenter. “This is a terrible idea and only makes the problem worse, and makes the school board look out of touch with the needs of the community.”

Said another: “Please continue arts and music programs. While this seems like an easy cut, these programs stimulate the mind and help the students learn important skills such as good listening, patience, focus and diligence.”

Starting Sept. 9, community members will be able to submit specific proposals for how to balance the budget using a “Budget Proposal Tool” available at

The proposals submitted via the Budget Proposal Tool will be shared with the Budget Task Force for their review prior to making a recommendation to the Superintendent in October. The information will also be shared with the Superintendent and School Board.

The task force has outlined potential cost savings for consideration. Among them:

  • Raising class sizes by one student for K-12 ($26.2 million)
  • Reducing late buses by one day per week ($1.3 million)
  • Eliminating some sports (freshman, junior varsity and varsity sports) and cutting high school athletic trainers ($10.9 million).
  • Eliminating school extracurriculars such as yearbook, It’s Academic, newspaper, debate and student council, as well as cutting supplemental funding for music and drama programs ($12.3 million).
  • Reducing number of high school assistant principals ($1.2 million).
  • Reducing number of custodian positions ($2.4 million),
  • Reducing Central Support positions (ie, Human Resources, Instructional Services, IT) ($1.7 million to $8.4 million).

Learn more about the 2017-budget on FCPS’ website. See the task force’s 12-page menu of budget-cutting ideas in the document below.

Cost-Savings Ideas from FCPS Task Force by Karen Goldberg Goff

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