Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Jack Dale’s proposed budget for FY 2014 calls for a 2.6 percent funding increase over the current year budget, mostly to accommodate enrollment growth of 2,857 students.
FCPS Budget Director Kristen Michael gave a presentation on the $2.5 billion budget at a meeting of the Fairfax Federation of Citizens Associations Jan. 16. Here are some highlights:
- Along with an increase in general enrollment, FCPS is projecting large increases in populations that require costlier services, including a 16 percent increase in English language learners, a nearly 14 increase in students with disabilities eligible for special education, and a whopping increase of over 27 percent in students eligible for free and reduced-price meals.
- FCPS is requesting about $1.7
billion in funds transferred from the county, which is a 5.5 percent increase
($92.4 million) in the amount of transfer funds approved by the Board of Supervisors for FY
2013. That would be a larger increase than the county approved for each of the
past six years, but the county approved larger annual increases annually in
2005 through 2008. County funds mainly come from real estate and personal
- A 1 percent market-scale pay adjustment is proposed for employees, at a cost of $18.9 million, but the budget does not include step increases. The starting salary for Fairfax County teachers is $45,161. That’s less than the starting teacher’s salary in Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery County, and Loudoun County, but more than Prince George’s County, Manassas, Falls Church, Prince William County, and Manassas Park. The maximum teacher’s salary in Fairfax County is $96,039, which is less than all those jurisdictions except Prince George’s County.
- About 84.4 percent of the budget would be spent on the instructional program, 5.6 percent would go to transportation, 4.5 percent would go for facilities management (maintaining school buildings and equipment), and 4.6 percent would go for “general support,” including human resources, information technology, and the central office administration staff.
- The vast majority of expenditures would go toward employee compensation (88 percent). That includes 309 new positions, with 295 of them to accommodate increased enrollment. Student enrollment has steadily increased from 169,538 in 2009 to a projected 184,393 next year. Since 2009, there’s been a 42 percent increase in the number of English language learners and a 35.5 percent increase in the number of students from lower-income households. Much of the increased enrollment is in kindergarten and the lower elementary grades, which means the higher student population will be with us for a long time.
- FCPS will have to increase its payments to the employee retirement system, and health insurance costs will rise.
- The budget proposes funding increases of $6.5 million for extended time for teachers, $6.4 million for facilities maintenance, $2.1 million for bus replacement, and $1 million for foreign language instruction in elementary schools.
- FCPS expects to save $38.5 million in staffing costs by replacing retirees with lower-paid employees.
- The lion’s share of FCPS funding comes from Fairfax County (71 percent). Other revenue sources include state aid (16.4 percent), sales tax revenue (6.6 percent), federal aid (1.7 percent), and payments from the City of Fairfax (1.7 percent). The rest comes from a variety of sources.
- The proposed budget projects no increase from last year in state aid and a 2 percent increase in state sales tax revenue ($3.2 million). It does not take into the account the possibility of sequestration of the federal budget, which could have a significant impact.
Here are the key dates in the budget cycle:
Jan. 29—The school board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the budget.
Feb. 7—The school board will adopt an advertised budget.
Feb. 26—The Fairfax County executive will release the county’s advertised budget plan for FY 2014.
March 5—The Board of Supervisors (BOS) will advertise the tax rate.
April 9—The school board will present its budget to the BOS.
April 9-11—The BOS will hold public hearings.
April 30—The BOS will approve the budget, tax rate, and amount of funds to be transferred to the schools.
May 14—The school board will hold hearings on the budget.
May 23—The school board will adopt a budget for FY 2104.