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Bulova: Education to be major focus in 2014

FAIRFAX, Va. – Fairfax County Chair Sharon Bulova gave her annual State of the County address Tuesday and education will take front and center this year as the county faces tremendous student population growth and a building crunch.

“The board of supervisors considers education our highest priority. It is our greatest investment,” Bulova says.

During a press conference Wednesday morning following a preview of her video address, Bulova says the school system will get what it needs, but that it will not get everything its asking for.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza is asking for $2.5 billion in her 2015 proposed budget. That’s a 2.4 percent increase over last year. But the proposed budget also calls for deep cuts and the elimination of 731 positions.

The supervisors had agreed to give the schools a 2 percent increase in funding. But Garza says if the Board of Supervisors doesn’t approve a 5.7 percent increase that even deeper cuts will be needed.

“Yes we will meet the needs of the schools. Will it be easy? No, it won’t,” Bulova says.

Bulova says the school board will have to roll up their sleeves and find ways to reduce costs just as the Board of Supervisors will, calling it another tough budget year for the county.

She says the budget will be a major challenge considering the sluggish economic recovery and the impact of sequestration on residents and businesses. The county is facing a $25 million shortfall for the coming year.

But the schools are facing an even larger shortfall and have called for $866 million for school construction and renovations. Student enrollment has grown about 20,000 students each year since 2006.

The county is responsible for funding the public school system in addition to general county services.

In addition to the focus on school funding, Bulova also highlighted several key events that residents can look forward to this year:

  • Opening of the first phase of the new Metro Silver Line. Bulova says the line from Falls Church to Reston will open soon.
  • Construction of the I-95 Express Lanes from Springfield to Stafford County will continue. The project should be completed by late 2015.
  • Continued revitalization of Tysons Corner.
  • The World Police and Fire Games. Bulova says the major sporting event will put Fairfax on the map. It’s the second largest athletic competition in the world after the Summer Olympics.

Bulova says the Games are expected to bring in well over $100 million in revenue. She says 7,000 athletes and 30,000 visitors will be coming for the Games. And that hotels are already booking athletes for the event that will coincide with the Fourth of July in 2015.

“Most of the activities will take place over a two-week period,” she says.

The venues for the games will be spread across the county. Reston Town Center will serve as the village for the athletes and George Mason University will serve as a major venue for some of the events.

Watch the address below:

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.


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