The Fairfax County Public Schools school board has approved its Fiscal Year 2015 budget of $2.5 billion, but it did not get there without cost cutting and reconfiguring.
The board voted 7-3 to pass the budget on Friday. The FY 2015 plan is an increase of $39 million (1.6 percent) over 2014, but it also includes reductions of more than $97 million and eliminates 720 positions.
Among the cost-saving changes:
Reductions to school clerical and custodial staffing that were adopted from the State School Efficiency Review, presented to the Board in September 2013.
Class size was increased by .05 students in elementary and middle schools and 1.0 students at the high school level.
Including the FY 2015 budget, more than 2,100 positions have been eliminated since FY 2009, FCPS says.
The school system will continue to pay for test fees for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB), something FCPS considered eliminating as it costs the system $4 million annually. Each FCPS high school will also add a position to provide in-school suspension support to students.
The transfer from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was increased by 3 percent (to $51 million), but was far less than the 5.6 percent new schools superintendent Karen Garza had requested. The supervisors provide nearly 70 percent of funding for the schools, which are projected to see an increase of more than 2,000 students (and $19.5 million in spending on them) next school year. FCPS is also expected to receive additional state funding.
Fairfax County, with more than 186,000 students, is one of the country’s largest school systems.
The budget, which takes effect July 1, includes a delayed salary step increase for all eligible employees. Increases in retirement rate costs are estimated to be $38.9 million, and increases in health insurance rates are estimated to be $19.9 million, FCPS said.
School Board Chair Ilryong Moon said the board was committed to giving a salary increase to employees this year.
“We realize the importance of fairly compensating our school-based and support staff members and of staying competitive in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area,” he said. ”We appreciate the Board of Supervisors’ efforts to increase the transfer this year, although we remain disappointed that the board did not fully fund our transfer request. We are committed to continuing the cooperative, collaborative process that was established during this budget cycle in future years.”
In appealing to the supervisors at budget talks in April, Moon said the school system has “reached a tipping point where the underfunding of our schools at both the county and state levels for the past several years has led us to where we now face a distressing reality — one that suggests there is very real and troubling evidence that our great school system is beginning to show signs of decline.”
Among the reasons, according to Moon: continually growing class sizes; 12 schools that are no longer accredited by the state of Virginia; higher Standards of Learning test measures/lower pass rates; and the need for extra support for growing totals of English as a Second Language and students living in poverty.