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Garza: Budget Gap Means ‘We Cannot Fund Basic Needs of Our Community’

by Karen Goff February 29, 2016 at 11:30 am 35 Comments

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza said the system is doing its part to cut costs, and she implored the county Board of Supervisors to do theirs to increase funding.

“We’re really at the crossroads,” she said at a joint school board/board of supervisors meeting on Friday. “You are going to determine which path we go. We can continue to cut, to the point of where we no longer recognize our system, or do we begin the slow process of continuing to sustain excellence in our schools? We recognize that these are very difficult decisions, but we ask for your support.”

Garza’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget asks the county for an operating budget transfer of $1.9 billion (a 6.7 percent increase over 2016). County Executive Ed Long’s proposed budget includes a school operating transfer of $1.88 billion (a 3 percent, or $54.75 million, increase from 2016).

Long’s proposed $3.99 overall county budget comes with a suggested real estate tax increase of 4 cents per $100 of value, or about a $303 annual tax bill rise for the average Fairfax County homeowner.

The supervisors will advertise the county tax rate on Tuesday, which will be followed by public hearings on the matter in April. At last week’s meeting, Garza and several school board members urged the supervisors to consider an increase of more than 4 cents in order to adequately fund schools.

Garza pointed out that asking for just under $2 billion is frugal on the part of the schools. Were the schools system to get everything it needs — such as replacing aging textbooks and computers, as well as employee raises and reductions in classroom sizes —  it would take an extra $305 million, Garza said.

“FCPS has a tradition of excellence that continues despite the daunting challenges we face,” Garza told the supervisors. “FCPS’ reputation for excellence is forged through genuine community investment and together, we leverage our strengths to make a difference for every student. Our success as a system attracts businesses and people to our county and it strengthens the quality of life in our community.”

Garza said the budget gap of nearly $68 million means “we cannot even fund the basic needs of our system.”

Garza presented her proposed budget in January. After several months of warning about potential cuts to sports, music, Advanced Academics and other programs, the superintendent said no cuts would be made for 2016-17.

But that depends on full funding from the county.

“Further cuts would be required,” Garza said. “The county stated that additional significant program reductions will change the fabric of the county irrevocably and this is also true for FCPS. For both county and schools, we must begin to look ahead and recognize that investments are necessary to keep Fairfax strong.”

Garza reiterated the point that FCPS has made about $500 million in cuts and eliminated more than 2,000 jobs in the last eight years.

That left some supervisors skeptical. Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity said the school system is participating in deceptive “political theater” since the school system’s budget has actually grown by $500 million since then.

“How do you cut every year for nine years and go from a $2.1 billion budget to a $2.6 billon budget?” Herrity said.

  • Greg

    “How do you cut every year for nine years and go from a $2.1 billion budget to a $2.6 billon budget?” Herrity said.

    I would like to know too.

    • meh

      ¿cómo se dice inmersión lingüística?

    • AnimalLover

      It’s per pupil spending, not overall.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Garza reiterated the point that FCPS has made about $500 million in cuts
    and eliminated more than 2,000 jobs in the last eight years.

    She always forgets to mention that the budget increased dramatically from 2001 to 2008 and thousands of positions were added. FCPS is still way up from where they were in 2001.

    • GrumpyOldMan

      Those “cuts” in the last 8 years came from grossly over-inflated “advertised budgets,” which really ought to be called “my wish list.” They had nothing to do with reality of the # of students, the salaries of the faculty, or any other pertinent measure of “need.”

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Suck it, Garza. As long as 17% of our budget is for ESL, I’m against transferring another penny to FCPS.

    • Mike M

      Chuck, if you aren’t willing to open your wallet for whomever can get here and squat, then you might just be a racist. 😉

      • Chuck Morningwood

        I don’t race along South Lakes drive, so I can’t possibly be a racist. I do, however, enjoy doing donuts in office parking lots during a good snow. Does that make me a “donutist”?

        • Troll Troller

          Me love reasoned commentary from Chuck and Mike M.

          • Mike M

            Hi, I’m Mike M and I’d like a few billion of your dollars. After all, strong Mike M’s make strong neighbors. It’s perfect reasoning. Who could argue with that, Troll?

  • John Higgins

    FCPS needs additional funding for its math program. Not for the students, for the administration. The superintendent’s FY 2017 budget request rolled in $22 million to pay the costs of increased enrollment. Well, enrollment is actually going down. Maybe they misunderstood the computational difference between “-” and “+”.

    It’s also interesting that the benchmark for salaries is the highest paid local jurisdiction (Arlington) rather than somewhere near the mid-point…that would be Fairfax. I don’t claim to understand the market forces at play, but with a built in 3% annual increase (wasn’t inflation close to zero recently?) and with a retirement kicker not even Arlington could deliver with a straight face, I’m having a hard time appreciating the call for salaries to go even higher.

    And on top of this all, FCPS will need even more funds to search for a replacement superintendent when the school board comes to appreciate the damage being done by the current administration’s approach to financial management.

    • susie

      Given the high cost of living in Fairfax, teachers are woefully underpaid. They have foregone COLAs and promised STEP increases for years. I also wouldn’t bet on that golden pension given how poorly the states are managing them. However, if they would cut the all the freebies to the “refugees” that are flooding the school system, and eliminate many of the 6 figure salaries at Gatehouse, teachers would get their fair share. I can assure you, it is a huge struggle to make it on a teacher’s salary in Fairfax.

      • TBird73

        “They have foregone COLAs and promised STEP increases for years.”
        A flat out lie. School employees have received raises every year but TWO since 2007. INCLUDING THE LAST TWO YEARS. Do you really think we’re that stupid?

        • susie

          They have not gotten both COLA and Step increases every year.

          • TBird73

            What? Who said anything about salary? What happened, can’t defend your lie, so you change the subject? And really, all the federal employees who live in Fairfax get paid $100k?!?? What about other county employees, huh? Are their salaries also averaging $100k?

            I didn’t argue a thing about “what they deserve”. Everybody deserves a living wage. You may not be able to afford the home you want, but you can live here. Guess what, many public employees around here can’t afford to live in Fairfax. Welcome to being like the rest of us. If you want a mid-management or executive salary, then don’t be a teacher.

            And while everybody deserves to earn a living wage, nobody deserves to do so by bankrupting the rest of us. You attitude, your sue of lies and your flimsy grip on the facts of reality tell me that you really have no case for needing more. You just WANT. Well, guess what, we don’t WANT to give you more.

          • susie

            Wow. I’m NOT a teacher anymore. So I get nothing out of any raises given. I have a full time job (do you?) and don’t have time to argue semantics with you. Teaching is a professional career that requires a college degree. Yet their salaries are on par with blue collar workers that graduate high school. And we all know what is happening to the blue collar workers in this country. I also think we are running good people out of the profession. There will ALWAYS be someone willing to teach at a low salary. Is that what you want in our schools?

          • TBird73

            Wow? Wow what? You portray yourself as a teacher, and you were, and so…what? And of course, you resort to condescension, and then a few more ridiculously obtuse statements about what you THINK other people make. Blue collar people (whoever that might be) make between 65k and 90k a year???!? Really? Tell me where, because I would love that job. by the way, pretentiously snobby much? Yet again showing your loose grip on reality.
            And let me guess, you “don’t have time” but you’ll still come back to spew more nonsense, right?

          • susie

            Wow – did not mean to offend you or pick a fight. I truly am busy but am having a slower day today. You win. Now please relax.

      • Greg

        Then let those “woefully underpaid” teachers MOVE to where they will earn their worth. There are plenty of unemployed teachers would would eagerly take their positions.

        • susie

          Have you ever taught school?

          • Greg

            Sure have, and was more than content with the good salary and outstanding benefits.

          • susie

            Yes, but what was the cost of housing when you taught?

          • Greg

            The same as it is now. There are plenty of affordable housing options available in Fairfax County and more available every year — we did not choose to live in Great Falls and could have lived elsewhere for less, but with more commuting time.

          • susie

            Where? What can a professional who has worked 10 years buy on a 65k salary in FFX that is as you say “not in Great Falls”?

          • Greg
          • susie

            So a college degree and 10 yrs into your profession you can afford to rent an apt found on Craigslist?! LOL

          • Greg

            What is your obsession with ten years into a (chosen) profession?

            Choose better and educate yourself better. LOL!

          • Greg

            And buying housing is not a right. If you want to buy property, especially in Fairfax County where the taxes escalate faster than any other costs, get a higher-paying job.

          • susie

            One more time Greg, where are the plenty of affordable housing options for teachers 10 yrs into their profession?

          • Greg

            Can you not click and read? I’ve posted but a few of them, including many that are paid for by the heavily burdened taxpayers.

            Irrespective of that fact, any teacher who is not happy with the offered compensation should move or seek a career with better pay.

          • susie

            I did – and I’ll never buy in Fairfax County.

          • Greg

            On those we agree.

          • susie

            I agree it’s not a right – but it should be an option with a college degree and working in a professional field for 10 (its a nice round number) years.

          • RoadApples

            Curious question:
            Does 65K salary for 10 months work actually = 78K for 12 months work?

  • TBird73

    I love how, yet again, simply not getting everything you want is somehow a “cut”, even when your budget keeps going up and up. Oh, and by the way, ALL of those positions they cut were VACANT POSITIONS that were funded YEAR after YEAR. And when they weren’t filled, the money simply disappeared into “surplus”. She’s using her scam to justify another scam. Talk about corruption run amuck.

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