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County, Schools Show Need for Virginia to Narrow Budget Gap

by Karen Goff December 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm 20 Comments

Virginia State Capitol, RichmondFairfax County expects a budget shortfall of $85 million for Fiscal Year 2017. Fairfax County Public Schools now predict the school system’s deficit will be $60 million.

That’s a lot of gap to narrow, and that was the focus of a joint budget forecast by county executive Ed Long and FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza last week to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last week.

More than half the county’s spending (more than $2 billion) goes to education. But with continually shrinking state contributions and rising school system costs, the gap continues to grow, the supervisors said.

“State K-12 funding in 2016 remains below FY 2009 level,” said Mason Supervisor Penny Gross. “Virginia localities have spent $3.55 billion more per year to match state K-12 funding. The state funding cuts have come at a time when localities are increasingly serving children with special needs, including special education, those learning English as a Second Language and those living in economically disadvantaged households.”

“A state that is in top 10 in income should not be in bottom 10 in state educational funding, but that is where Virginia finds itself.”

State contributions aside, the county says several factors are contributing to its shortfall. Among them:

  • Slow local economic growth and net job losses in federal government and professional services
  • Decreased federal spending in county
  • Slight slowdown in housing market
  • Disbursement growth that is scheduled to outpace revenue growth, including an assumed 3 percent transfer to FCPS. The county said it plans an increase of $80 million in its transfer to schools (including debt service and capital funding) for 2017.
  • Increased county employee pay (an additional $39.66 million in 2017, plus an additional $7.58 million in benefits)

See a Power Point with more details on the county budget on the Fairfax County website.

Meanwhile, the school system, which has for months been engaging the community and a Budget Task Force in a conversation on how to narrow the deficit, told the county board of supervisors at last week’s joint work session that expenditures are expected to increase by more than $113 million in 2017.

The school system is now facing a projected $60.6 million budget shortfall. The number keeps changing (it was as high as $100 million last spring) because of uncertainties in enrollment and state contributions, says Garza.

Garza said FCPS is using a standard 3 percent transfer increase from the county in forecasting its FY 2017 budget.

According to the superintendent’s presentation, FCPS has made half a billion in cuts since 2008. During that same time frame, the increase in the county transfer totals $239.2 million. The increases in the county transfer have not historically covered the cost of four major budget drivers: enrollment, salary increases, retirement, and health, says Garza.

The Budget Task Force completed its report last month with suggestions for how to save the system money. Suggestions range from charging for athletic participation to eliminating language immersion programs to increasing class size.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will release his proposed budget to the General Assembly on Dec. 17. Garza will release her proposed FCPS budget Jan. 8. The Fairfax County General Assembly delegation will hold a public hearing on Jan. 9. After many more discussions, public hearings and markup sessions, the school board will adopt its final FY 2017 budget in late May.

The supervisors also said last week that ensuring K-12 funding should be a top priority for local General Assembly members at the 2016 session. The board and the state reps will have a work session on Dec. 8.

  • Education this is not

    What was heard is that there no budget.gaps, instead there are surpluses and slush funds that are being squandered. Eg the 50 million turf debacle that requires a complete overhaul due to carcinogens found in layers of the liner.

  • meh

    Why should I as a homeowner have to see my property taxes go up so “undocumented migrants” overcrowd schools and waste the time of the education system to be babysat and taught English? Each additional student hinders the development of others, redirects a finite number of resources and overcrowds the classroom.

    Here’s what we do. Want to enroll your child in school – prove citizenship of the child and their legal guardian. Honestly, there are enough lawn maintenance crews in Reston.

    • Mike M

      Why? Because you are surrounded by Democratic voters. That’s why.

      Next question?

  • sheik yerbouti

    Until they fix the tax code, property owners in the county should receive a special card that enables us to have our children participate in sports and after school clubs free of extra charges. It would also be nice if we are allowed to vote 10 times for county and state elections since we are funding everything, its only fair.

    • meh

      I think you’re a bit off. Only property owners should vote period.

    • Mike M

      What? You don’t like paying twice for your kids and many others?

  • Richard

    The Board of Supervisors has the power to raise revenue to the point that they can fully-fund the schools. They need to do so or move aside for others to make the difficult decisions to fund county requirements. If they wish to make cuts instead of raising revenue, so be it, but take the money out of county services, not the schools. Our schools system is among the most important things that residents and businesses consider when moving to Fairfax County, far more than tax rates unless they are really exhorbitant.

    • SouthRestonResident

      You’re right Richard. Fairfax County being a “sanctuary county” combined with the great education it once provided is the primary reason so many “undocumented migrants” have decided to move to the area.

      Which of course is the problem. These people that are suckling off the government are causing my taxes to sky-rocket. In a few years when my property gets some additional equity I will be doing what I can to move out of the area…..

      • Richard

        Interesting. You’re going broke and getting rich at the same time.

  • sheik yerbouti

    they have a valid point, illegal immigrants are not buying property which fund the schools and yet their children are in the county school systems. The school system funding used to work as the property owners used to be able to cover the cost of poorer citizens who also needed education. The influx of non-citizens that are poor have upset that balance. The county needs to worry about citizens of this nation and restore the balance or they need to change the tax code so everyone pays their fair share.

    • Latina Lawyer

      Okay, well then how about the people who are complaining about illegal immigration refund the portion of their social security that is being funded by illegal immigrants. That way the immigrants can pay their “fair share.”(PS that is a BS term considering that people who want “fair share” policies have always benefited from having far more than their fair share.)

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/02/AR2010090202673.html

      Oh, and PS, why do you all assume that ESL students and families are non-citizens or non-legal residents? Seriously, I am sick of seeing a bunch of bigot trolls equating having a foreign sounding name to having no right to be here. Seriously people! You complain about having to educate people when you present yourself as the EXACT REASON why more universal education is important.

      • susie

        Deflect – deflect – deflect. How about this one, Latino Lawyer – why does Fairfax County have to be a sanctuary county if all those “foreign sounding names” are legal citizens?

        • Latina Lawyer

          1. Latina, not latino. I am a woman.
          2. The only mention I ever hear of the phrase “Sanctuary County” or “Sanctuary City” is from racists who claim that for some reason municipal governments the ability to not follow federal immigration law. Because obviously large immigrant populations are only the result of municipalities violating Article I, Section 8, clause 4 of the Con­stitution (PS, please for the love of God look that up before you EVER write “Sanctuary County” ever again.)

          3. Not deflecting, just pointing out that people that are complaining are forgetting that they have benefited from certain aspects of the exact thing they are complaining about, and therefore, they should quit reaping those benefits before they complain about another policy that would fix the scales.

          • susie

            So, by your logic, if I don’t agree to open borders allowing any and all people into this country at my expense (they’re coming for the freebies) I am a racist. When you have no logical argument – you resort to namecalling – like a toddler.

            By the way, these illegals are collecting social security that they are not paying since they are being paid under the table.

          • shagga

            “they have benefited from certain aspects of the exact thing they are complaining about”

            Its true, we have been milking the taxpayers of Mexico and Honduras for years to take advantage of their fantastic education and health care systems.

            well played, simpleton.

          • shagga

            man this liberal hysteria with spending limited resources has no end… all in the name of feel bad. Sorry, 1 generation of being persecuted for a pale skin color is enough, we don’t need to pass this along for the next generation.

  • shagga

    allowing latina lawyer her [email protected] views and no logical refutes to her shoddy arguments is not a good form of journalism.

    • susie

      Absolutely agree.

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