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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

School leaders disappointed in proposed county budget

School board members, PTA leaders, and other education advocates stage a Save Our Schools rally before the Board of Supervisors meeting Feb. 25.
School leaders and education advocates are disappointed in the small increase, about 2 percent, for Fairfax County Public Schools in a proposed county budget for fiscal year 2015 presented to the Board of Supervisors Feb. 25 by County Executive Edward Long.

The school board had approved a budget last month calling for an additional $63 million for FCPS (a 5.7 percent increase) over the amount approved for FY 2014.

“It was very disappointing to see a proposed 2 percent  increase, said school board member Sandy Evans (Mason). “The school system is seeing major continuing growth in student numbers and large new state requirements. The 2 percent wouldn’t even cover the cost of just this year’s pension payment increases required by the state, much less student growth.”

“Our proposed budget includes deep, painful cuts and significant reductions in positions,” Evans said, while the county budget would add positions. “ I hope the supervisors will be willing to do more for the schools to avoid even worse cuts than our budget foresees.”

School board Chair Ilryong Moon also called the proposed county budget “very disappointing.”

“No one would believe that that was a budget proposal with education considered as a top priority,” Moon said. “It only gives the schools $39 million out of the expected, increased revenue of $148 million. That is merely 26 percent for the schools. The county is using and keeping the rest. Our community and our children deserve better than this. I am counting on the county supervisors to make right decisions. They must reject the county executive’s proposal and fully fund the children’s needs.”

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza also called Long’s budget proposal “very disappointing,” adding “I think we have to remain optimistic and hopeful that our county leadership sees how desperate the schools are for additional revenue.”

School board member Ryan McElveen (at-large) said: “At first I thought the proposed budget was a joke. It not only inadequately funds our schools, it also cuts the SACC (school-age childcare) program by 45 positions.”

BoS Chair Sharon Bulova might seek a higher tax cap to generate more funds for schools and other services, the Washington Post reports. Long had proposed maintaining the current property tax rate. Long’s budget would maintain the tax rate at the current level. Assessments are up an average of 6.5 percent, however, meaning homeowners will pay about $332 more on average.

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