Fairfax Co. Schools budget standoff only just starting

WASHINGTON — The Fairfax County School Board approved a 2015-2016 budget Thursday night that includes later school start times, and a smaller-than-hoped-for raise for some employees, but the board is already raising concerns about the following year.

The school board blames the county board for transferring about $7 million less to the schools than the school system had asked for in the upcoming year. The board has pointed out that is 99.8 percent of the request.

To make the cuts, the school board changed a planned 1 percent salary increase to 0.62 percent, in addition to step increases.

But school board members say the planned county contribution next year will only cover increases in spending that the school board has little control over, such as enrollment increases and higher retirement costs.

That means other planned spending, including further salary increases, would leave a shortfall of more than $50 million.

Several members of the school board said at the meeting that the county and schools do not have the tools they need to raise more money to keep schools properly funded, suggesting that more money should be sent from the state government, or that the state government should give local leaders more taxing authority.

The school system has released strongly worded statements and even a website that urge county residents to push for more funding.

The website claims the budget shortfall for 2016-17 is projected to be more than $100 million, however that does not factor in the county board’s planned increase in contribution of about 3 percent.

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