A $16.8 million boost in state funding and additional money from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will result in practically closing the Fairfax County Public Schools’ projected multimillion shortfall for 2017.
FCPS had been facing a potential $67 million budget gap when it began planning for Fiscal Year 2017 earlier this year. The schools asked the county for about $2 billion, or half the county’s $3.99 billion budget, which is a 6-percent rise from last year.
At a budget mark-up session on Tuesday, the supervisors said they would provide an additional $33.6 million to schools. This was done by allocating an entire penny of the tax rate and using reallocated funds from Third Quarter Review, said Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova.
This will give the schools, which will receive 52.7 percent of the County’s General Fund budget, enough to “address teacher compensation, preserve existing programs, and begin working to decrease class size,” said Bulova.
“It is up to the elected officials on the School Board to determine the pay plan for teachers and how to prioritize funding for specific school programs such as language immersion and fourth grade strings,” Bulova’s office said in a statement.
The School Operating Transfer will now be increased by $88.4 million, or 4.8 percent over FY2016.
FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said the schools now have “the opportunity to make a significant and critical investment in teacher salaries, and reduce class size, while not cutting vital student programming.”
“I am hopeful that this is reflective of a turning point in our community,” she added in a release. “This reinvestment in our community’s most important asset, our schools, will provide great dividends for all the citizens of Fairfax. We look forward to continuing to work as partners with the Board of Supervisors to solve future budget issues in the best interests of the residents of Fairfax County. ”
The supervisors will vote on the final budget on April 26. The schools will adopt their budget on May 26.
At Tuesday’s session, the board also voted 7-3 in favor of a $1.13 tax rate for FY2017, an increase from the FY2016 rate of $1.09 per $100 of assessed value. The 4-cent increase will generate approximately $93 million in additional county revenue.
The rise in the real estate tax rate will result in about a $303 increase in taxes next year for the typical Fairfax County homeowner.
The new budget year begins on July 1 — but the county and the schools are already forecasting a similarly large budget gap for 2018.
That is why the supervisors are also considering adding a meals tax referendum in the November election. A 4-percent meals tax — similar to the ones in Arlington, Alexandria and town of Herndon, Vienna and Fairfax City — would provide about $90 million of revenue for the county annually.
Read more about the budget markup overall impact on this post from Fairfax County.
Karen Garza/file photo