Op-Ed: FCPS Can’t Cut Any More From Budget

by Karen Goff August 22, 2016 at 2:40 pm 56 Comments

fcps logoThis is an op-ed from Vienna resident Jason V. Morgan. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

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Dear Editor,

I am writing because there was a major misrepresentation of Fairfax County’s budget in the August 4, 2016, commentary submitted by Claude Andersen (Director of Operations, Clyde’s Restaurant Group).

Mr. Anderson opposes the upcoming meals tax referendum, but he is providing very bad information to justify his position. Mr. Andersen erroneously claims that the Fairfax County budget has increased by almost $1 BILLION since 2012.

However, the nominal growth since 2012 is only $442.1-474.8 MILLION, depending on whether one looks at FY2012/FY2016 or FY2013/FY2017. And in inflation-adjusted terms, the growth is only $265.1-298.4 MILLION (2016 dollars).

More importantly, Mr. Anderson ignores the fact that Fairfax County already suffered years of cuts before 2012. When unemployment went up and housing prices went down, Fairfax County Public Schools and the Fairfax County government shared in the pain by embracing austerity.

By FY2012, the inflation-adjusted Fairfax County budget was down $237.3 MILLION from FY2008 (2016 dollars). And inflation-adjusted per-pupil operating fund spending at Fairfax County Public Schools was down $1,451 (2016 dollars). Inflation-adjusted per-pupil operating fund spending at FCPS still has not fully recovered.

The fact is, the Fairfax County budget annual percentage inflation-adjusted growth since FY2008 is only 0.44 percent; the FCPS operating budget annual percentage inflation-adjusted growth since FY2008 is only 0.73 percent.

In contrast, the annual percentage growth of the general population during around the same period is 0.97 percent (2007-15), while the annual percentage growth in the number of pupils at Fairfax County Public Schools since FY2008 is 1.3 percent.

Thus, both the Fairfax County budget and the FCPS operating budget have been outpaced by increased demand since FY2008. The FCPS budget has been particularly stretched thin because both the number of students receiving English for speakers of other languages services and the number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches have increased by almost 50 percent since FY2008 (an annual percentage growth of over 4.5 percent). Many of these students are at risk of falling far behind without some additional time, attention, and resources.

Additional time, attention, and resources costs a little extra, but every child deserves the opportunity to make the most of his or her vast, innate potential.

Mr. Andersen’s baseless claim that our county just needs to better emphasize “frugality, efficiency, and good management” is a dangerous fantasy based on a distorted picture of Fairfax County finances. In the face of economic challenges and increased demands, Fairfax County and FCPS have become significantly more efficient since FY2008. But the low-hanging fruit has been picked.

Neither Mr. Anderson nor anyone else has proposed reasonable ideas for greater efficiency that come anywhere close to the much-needed $97 MILLION revenue boost we would get by adopting a meals tax.

The time for mindless austerity in Fairfax County must come to an end. Unemployment is down while income is up; yet Fairfax County is at risk of being ideologically-driven into a self-inflicted prolonged decline. We need to vote YES! for the meals tax referendum on November 8th to diversify our tax base, to keep real property tax rates from rising sharply, and to preserve the quality of our schools, services, and communities.

Jason V. Morgan


  • KevOMG

    Calling one person’s facts “baseless” is unfair when followed up with this statement:

    “In the face of economic challenges and increased demands, Fairfax County and FCPS have become significantly more efficient since FY2008. But the low-hanging fruit has been picked.”

    All that was stated is how Mr. Anderson was incorrect in his claims, which have been corrected by this writer. However, can you please expand on your claims that Fairfax County and FCPS have become significantly more efficient, with statistical evidence please? If not, then you claim that FCPS is significantly (key word here) more efficient is baseless as well.

    • Guest

      Let me Google that for you. 2014-2015 Washington Area BOE report, including staffing efficiencies:


      2013 report specifically investigating FCPS program efficiency gains year over year, with statistical evidence:


      Do you like apples?

      • KevOMG

        Easy buddy. Just asked for statistical proof and if there was none than it was baseless claim. However, there are statistics as you’ve provided.

        Thanks for the information, and that cliché movie line to teach me a lesson. Clearly you’re one of those guys that looks to bring arguments to a conversation. Good on ya.

        • Guest

          Bless your heart. I like to bring answers to people with questions, and it looked like you were in need. Good on you for asking.

  • Scott H

    Sorry Jason, but if you think opposition is “baseless” and “mindless”, then some might call you an ignorant lemming. I wouldn’t, but some might.
    It seems that every time the Big Govt types want to sell a new way to tax the people, the “kids” are always invoked.

    “Don’t be mean. It’s for the kids!!!”

    Except, after passage, the “kids” never get the promised benefit or the new tax goes to “the kids” and the other money once appropriate to the kids is redirected elsewhere in a classic bait-and-switch.
    The county already takes in $4 BILLION annually and raised property taxes $100M just last year.
    There is no logical way you can make the claim that the county needs a new power to tax the electorate and that it needs another $100M. The county claims it needs an additional $70M for FCPS. To be clear, $70M is 1.75% of the $4B county budget. 1 point 75 percent!! Sorry, but find it elsewhere. If the county wants to prioritize “the kids,” they should do so, but they should prioritize them over something else that makes up the other 98.25% of the budget.

  • Waitwhat

    I would be 100% for this meals tax IF it went straight to teachers’ salaries, guaranteed, documented, delivered. An added bonus would be greatly minimizing all this standardized testing.

    • cRAzy

      I wouldn’t. That just means other mis-spent educational (& other public) funds would be would be mis-spent elsewhere.

      • Scott H

        ^^^^^^ THIS ^^^^^^

  • Greg

    Vote NO on the meals tax. The county and the schools have spending problems, not revenue problems.

  • noWayJose

    Voting no on the meals tax because we all know what happens. They put the money into a proposed line-item for the teachers but then the money is siphoned off and used on other wasteful spending or at best have the money go to middle management instead of the actual teachers.

    Also, there is a lot of room FCPS can cut from the budget. ESL for one.

  • Restres

    Your diatribe is useless. You through around inflation adjusted numbers as fact??? Could Reston Now publish something or someone more usefull.

    • Guest

      Of all things, attacking a budget examination for inflation adjusted numbers?

      Good luck buying that kickin’ rad Corvette for $3,000.

  • Walter Hadlock

    I’m always leery of someone who starts talking about “adjusted for inflation” when it comes to our tax dollars. It’s still money out of our pocket. Some of us are going backwards when it comes to income: Health insurance premium-up; social security monthly payment and retirement annuity (Federal): no increase because inflation is minimal; real estate taxes: UP. The draining of our wallets has to stop somewhere. A good place to start is just say NO to a meals tax. I agree with those who say the county does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Maybe those costing the school system extra for ESL should pay a fee for the extra expense.

    • JoeInReston

      How else can your compare numbers from two different time periods unless you adjust for inflation?

    • Guest

      The 2017 budget is the first in a decade without cuts to school funding. In the long term, properly educating the children of tax paying residents is of enormous benefit to our town, county, and country. Think next decade instead of next quarter.

      If you or others have difficulty understanding the challenges of ESL in schools, try not attacking children for being such a burden. Instead, think back to your own experiences as a child: a speech impediment causing a friend trouble with English, another unfit in gym, someone falling behind in literally any other subject. ESL is just another barrier to defeat and surpass.

      • TBird73

        “The 2017 budget is the first in a decade without cuts to school funding”
        A blatant lie perpetrated by someone who cant even be bothered to use their real Disquis handle.

        • Guest


          I don’t use a Disqus account.

          • TBird73

            Sure you don’t. By the way, your link does not support the statement. Not getting what you want is not “cuts to school funding”, even if you think it is.

  • There are issues: Last Sunday I crisscrossed Reston three times to help a older neighbor and guess what? I counted 78 pot hole in the roads. Must have too much money.
    And, the average class size for elementary schools in Fairfax is 28 which is six above the national average and states like Florida and South Carolina and South Dakota have state laws setting the cap at no more than 20. Too much money again.
    And, the state of Virginia redistributes the tax money in a unique way. For example, 70% of the sales tax collected in Northern Virginia and Tidewater areas is taken and redistributed to poorer counties. Fairfax and Loudoun only get approximately 30% of the sales and income taxes collected here back for services. The 70 % is redistributed to more needy counties in south side and southwest Virginia.
    So we can make up for it by driving over potholes and making our kids go in over crowded class rooms which dictate poor education.
    Maybe we could have our own gasoline tax or our own school attendance tax too.
    Who knows.

    • Flimflam

      How about we (VDOT) stop spraying acid on the pavement during the winter to reduce our pothole problem?

      Maybe they won’t deteriorate as fast due to the magnesium chloride. http://www.virginiadot.org/news/resources/snow2009docs/Road_antiicing_pretreatment.pdf

      If you don’t believe it’s acid, ask any mechanic whose hands have to touch our cars’ undercarriage during winter. It burns hands to the touch. And if it burns pavement and skin, imagine what it does to nature when washed into the streams.

  • Mike M

    I’ll make your cuts, Jason.

  • Ming the Merciless

    The FCPS budget has been particularly stretched thin because both the
    number of students receiving English for speakers of other languages
    services and the number of students eligible for free or reduced price
    lunches have increased by almost 50 percent since FY2008

    Ming was never asked if he wanted these people here, so Ming feels no particular obligation to pay for their feeding and education.

    • vdiv

      It’s actually in our interest that these people speak English and culturally integrate if they are here. Not sure why it is more expensive to do so as they are learning ESL in place of regular English classes.

      • Guest

        Ming continues to believe his personal dollars should fund arms for Beast Men instead of first world benefits to children of tax paying subjects. Could this have something to do with his dearest daughter Princess Ardala shacking up with that loathsome “Prince” Barin?!

        Stay tuned!

      • Ming the Merciless

        They can do so on their dime, not mine.

        • vdiv

          They are doing it on their dime, they are paying taxes, just like you and I are.

          • pointless forest

            ^^^^^^ THIS ^^^^^^

          • Greg

            Not true. There are nearly 2000 unaccompanied minors attending FCPS schools. None of them work and none of them pay taxes.

            “Per capita, Fairfax County took in far more undocumented minors than even Los Angeles County — which, just across the U.S.-Mexico border and with a population of 10 million, took in less than 2,000 undocumented minors, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”


          • pointless forest

            That’s great! McKinney-Vento students need our support, and for the county to support 2,000 of them means we are providing an amazing resource for the community.

            Except the article you linked says FCPS only enrolled about half, so it’s ~1,000 and not 2,000? And they’re living with sponsors — often family members — who live and work here? And pay taxes?

            Wait, Greg. Did you mean that SCHOOLCHILDREN don’t work or pay taxes? Oh, well, yes. I’d hope that’s true. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.

          • Greg

            Why don’t you answer your questions? Oh, Wait! They are rhetorical! Teachers (like you?) who demand ever more never do such things, do they?

            In a county that is crying poverty year after year, one undocumented student is one too many. As to exactly how many be it 1, 1000, 2000, or more, you tell me the number, teacher, and we will all be best informed.

          • pointless forest

            I’m sorry. Please understand that it’s not a bad thing to be wrong. If you’re willing to learn something from this, learn that the website you linked tries to connect social programs with illegal immigration, when they are two very concerning but very different issues.

            You are wrong to claim that one undocumented student is too many, when the McKinney-Vento Act benefits not just desperate refugees, but also your taxpaying Virginia neighbors, long time residents fallen on hard times. It benefits all of us to ensure that everyone’s children are educated and grow to a responsible adulthood.

            Then again, if you aren’t willing to learn, then we will all be best informed as to your motive.

          • Greg

            Your pointless forest is blinding you. Your logic baffles the mind. Your socialist ideas fail you and millions of others around the world. Cuba? Venezuela? They desperately need teachers like you.

          • Ming the Merciless

            They are not net tax-payers, they are net tax-takers, and they always will be.

          • vdiv

            And you know that how? And if that’s the case are they the only ones? Does it matter if they pay their taxes?
            Don’t be a hater Ming, it’s not good for morale.

  • Vote snow already

    Aristocratic sources reveal that the real elite in this case Clyde’s, has been very outspoken against parking fees at the Reston Town Center. And now it turns out there is political pressure and a campaign against your wallet

  • 30yearsinreston

    We all have to live within our means
    I have given enough for FCPS
    What is the ratio of teachers who actually are in a classroom to others employed
    This$4billion organization needs to go on a diet
    Vote NO to another tax

  • TBird73

    Fantasy Mr. Morgan?? You mean like the “fantasy” that we can all afford whatever tax you deem “necessary”?? You mean like the “Fantasy” the school unions like to say that we’re all just being “cheap”?? “Adjusting for Inflation” and “income means” do not account for the large portion of the Fairfax population that struggles to get by. Talking about averages of income only works if there is a standard distribution of income throughout the population. And if you think that is the case in Fairfax, you’re either a fool or a liar.

    • Guest

      Where did you read “income means” or averages? That isn’t in Morgan’s op ed. He’s talking about the overall budget, which benefits all parents — rich, poor, or just grinding by like most of us.

      • TBird73

        What do you think “annual percentage inflation-adjusted growth” is? A total budget number? And your idea of an “overall budget”, meaning increasing taxes, does not benefit people “scraping by”. Sorry if you and the writer think trying to save some money is “mindless”.

        • Guest

          You’ve invented an argument the author didn’t make, specifically to attack it. Good luck with that.

          • TBird73

            And you ignore definitions to fit your agenda. Good luck with your willful ignorance. It will convince no one.

  • Save Our Libraries

    I was in favor of a meal tax as a way of diversifying the tax base – until I learned that most of the money will go to the schools. The schools get an increase every year of tens of millions of $$ while other County services like library and parks have been cut and cut and cut. I want the meals tax revenue to go to other County services and toward tax relieve to overburdened homeowners – esp. seniors on fixed incomes. Supervisor Smyth voted against the meals tax because it would mostly go to the schools. I agree with Supervisor Smyth and will vote NO in November.

    • Save Our Community

      Why are you fighting against school services? Other comments on this same story note that dedicated school funds are perpetually siphoned to other efforts. Let’s fix that. Please contribute instead of harming your community.

      Want to relieve overburdened personal taxpayers, including seniors? Petition the Commonwealth to increase corporate income tax. That hasn’t happened since 1972. You might almost think Virginia is trying to squeeze out its retirees.

      • Greg

        Idiocy, madness and downright reckless. No more taxes. Don’t do that; rather, it’s time to cut expenses. Do our “burdened” schools really need EIGHT planetaria? New buses every new year? Teachers retiring at 50 on full benefits and pensions. Of course not!

        Virginia has already fallen from 1st to 13th place as a desirable place for corporate entities. Don’t kill any more of the tarnished golden goose or you will have no more than other takers to tax.



        • Save Our Community

          So say the company sponsors. I guess the community is fighting back a little too hard. Shame on you for overburdening retired seniors on fixed incomes. Please don’t cut our valuable county programs.




          • Greg

            No shame here; shame on retired seniors for not saving more when they worked, for making such poor choices at the voting booth and for settling for “fixed” incomes (most of which are indexed to inflation and increase thereto).

            Break those bad habits now and cut the budgets, reduce taxes and vote NO on the meal tax.

      • TBird73

        “Other comments on this same story note that dedicated school funds are perpetually siphoned to other efforts.”
        WHAT??!? School funding for other services??? When the heck has that EVER happened? You MUST be joking, right???!?!? And please tell me where anybody with any credibility said that?? Lies, lies and more lies. That’s all you “school” people have. And that, by the way, tells us everything we need to know about YOUR real motives.

  • Save Our Libraries

    The schools have received millions and millions in INCREASES while libraries and other services have been DECREASED . The majority of us don’t have kids in school. The schools suck up well over HALF of every tax dollar in Fairfax County. Go make the state pay more for schools and stop squeezing homeowners and starving other County services to feed the bottomless demands for school $$.

    • Guest

      From the 2016 budget FAQ (http://www.fcps.edu/news/fy2016/faq.shtml):

      “Since school year 2007-08 (FY 2008), the school system has cut 2,175 positions and nearly a half-billion dollars from its budget, affecting every school and department.”

      “Adjusted for inflation, FCPS is spending less per pupil than in school year 2008-09 (FY 2009).”

      The 2017 budget finally saw an increase for the first time in nearly a decade. Resources desperately needed to improve our community were finally granted. Please don’t take the funds required to feed and school our future.

  • One really

    Honestly, I stopped reading after this statement: “However, the nominal growth since 2012 is only $442.1-474.8 MILLION, depending on whether one looks at FY2012/FY2016 or FY2013/FY2017. And in inflation-adjusted terms, the growth is only $265.1-298.4 MILLION (2016 dollars).” Keyword being “only” I guest. It’s only someone else’s money.

    • Guest

      Of course you stopped reading there. The next paragraphs explain how 2012 was a desperate post austerity measures low point in school funding.

      It is all of our money. It is our children, our community, and our future.

      I can only imagine your motive.

      • One really

        Well, my main motive would be to stop listening to how we need more funding. I have three children within FCPS at different levels. Since the early 2000s all I have heard is “more more more”. Feed me more! If I give my kids 20 bucks (allowance) they shouldn’t expect more money just cause they blew through it. Oh, you want a new game, well then save and spend wisely.

        “It is all of our money. It is our children, our community, and our future.”

        My future 4% on a meal tax if this is passed is mine (currently) not yours. This is nothing to do with the future its about feeding a big govt.

        • Guest

          Repeating this here because your claims of greed and waste are flatly contradicted by the actual budget changes FCPS has seen since the 2000’s:

          From the 2016 budget FAQ (http://www.fcps.edu/news/fy2016/faq.shtml):

          “Since school year 2007-08 (FY 2008), the school system has cut 2,175 positions and nearly a half-billion dollars from its budget, affecting every school and department.”

          That FAQ also links to recent reports on how the schools your children attend have become more efficient in this period of austerity. But no efficiency gains can give teachers more time, and 25-30 students to a class never benefits the students.

          • One Really

            Seems you missed a word.

            “Since 2008, FCPS has reduced its operating budget by nearly half a billion dollars and eliminated more than 2,175 positions.”


            Keyword = operating

            This was in several straight years of press releases.

            I would hope any good steward of our tax dollars would be able to do the same.

            Let me explain it to you, since its seems your a government type. It’s not a blank check. Someone is paying for all of these services.

            I am just simply saying I am not in favor of 4% on a meal tax.

            In business If we lose customers and our revenue dips. We don’t squeeze our other customers. We start cutting our operating budget. 🙂

  • FairfaxLibraryAdvocate

    Schools consume 53% of every tax dollar. Public libraries get less than seven tenths of ONE percent. Libraries have had to eliminate over 400 staff out of a total which is a tiny fraction of the school staff. Libraries have been cut period – not based on inflation.
    Many services have been eliminated and the materials budget cut beyond the bone. Two recent years the cuts slated were 15% of the entire library budget each year. School meanwhile saw an increase in the overall budgets each year. School advocates complain because the INCREASE was not as big as they demanded. Library advocates merely begged that the CUTS be reduced. Big difference.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Who is Jason V. Morgan, and why is he spreading such felgercarb?

    Of course FCPS can cut more from the budget. The question is whether they have the fortitude to do it.


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