Reston, VA

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza speaking at West Potomac High School/FCPS Channel 21The Fairfax County School Board on Thursday adopted the Fiscal Year 2017 Advertised Budget of $2.67 billion. That amount is an increase of 4.8 percent, or $121.4 million, from the FY 2016 Approved Budget.

The board voted 9-3, with board members Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield), Jeanette Hough (At-Large) and Tom Wilson (Sully) voting against Superintendent Karen Garza’s budget proposal.

After much community discussion about a possible budget deficit of more than $50 million in 2017, Garza announced her proposed budget in January. The budget features no program cuts — something that had been discussed and feared in the FCPS community — and it calls for step- and market-increases for staff.

The budget also includes an additional $40 million to enhance teacher salaries and make them more competitive, as well as funding to keep class sizes at the elementary level below 30 students.

“A budget is fundamentally a statement of values, and the advertised budget reflects this community’s unwavering support for excellent public schools,” School Board Chairman Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill) said in a statement.

“It includes critical pay increases for our teachers, begins to address class sizes and, most importantly, proposes no cuts to the great programs that we expect from Fairfax County Public Schools.”

In summer 2015, FCPS organized a Budget Task Force that studied ways to trim the expected deficit. The task force looked at what could happen if there were deficits of $50 million, $75 million or $100 million — and plugged in everything from larger class sizes to elimination of programs such as Advanced Academic centers, foreign language immersion, and some school sports and music programs.

“The Superintendent’s Budget Task Force spent many hours over several weeks last summer and fall developing a list of potential program cuts and new fees,” said Hynes.  “Those cuts and fees are NOT in the Advertised Budget because they would fundamentally change the quality and character of FCPS. I did not leave the classroom to serve on the School Board so that I could preside over the dismantling of this world class school system. Potential cuts will, sadly, have to be considered should we not receive the revenue our schools need.”

One factor helping FCPS narrow the gap is lower-than-expected student growth in FY 2016. The school system had been experiencing rapid growth (about 2,400 students annually) in the last several years, but actually saw its population decline in FY 2016. The system now serves 187,000 students.

The FY 2017 budget also will save $19.1 million in its compensation base due to employee turnover.  The budget also includes $2.2 million to replace some of FCPS’ aging buses, $16.5 million in health insurance increases, and $13.5 million in retirement rate increases.

Now comes the hard part — getting the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to fund the schools budget. FCPS gets a majority of its funding from the county, which gave the school system $2 billion for FY 2016.

The School Board will present its budget to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, April 5.  The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings on the budget on April 5-7. The supervisors will approve the county budget and the amount of transfer to the schools in late April. The final budget will be approved by the school board in May.

Read more about the FCPS budget on FCPS’ website.

Photo: FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza announcing budget in January.

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