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Raises for Va. teachers, others blocked by budget shortfall

WASHINGTON — Teachers across Virginia are among those who may miss out on pay raises because of a state budget shortfall, and Fairfax County leaders are among those concerned that it could cause significant budget problems on the local level.

“The reason this is important is obvious: the teacher pay issue is pegged to the revenue projection being accomplished, and so how that affects the revenue coming to the county to support the teacher pay that was in the budget is obviously of great concern to all of us,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay.

State tax collections, which ended June 30, came in $266 million below projections used for the two-year budget cycle that began July 1. As part of the two-year budget, General Assembly leaders and Gov. Terry McAuliffe had approved raises for state workers, teachers, sheriff’s deputies and some other public employees across Virginia as long as revenues were close to projections. Those expectations were not met, so those raises have been put on hold.

“But I would add that it’s early, and it has been the practice in some past years [that] the state has been able to do other things to at least live up to their expectation that we would increase things like teacher pay in the past,” McKay said.

“There was some end-of-year savings that may not have been computed into the money numbers that were delivered on Friday, and so we’re a little bit optimistic that there are still some things that can be done, but we want to make sure that we weigh in and talk about how important this is.”

McKay, the chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Legislative Committee, plans to have a letter drafted from the board to McAuliffe and members of the General Assembly, outlining the concerns.

“That contribution coming from the state obviously was a critical part of our budget action and making sure that our budget was balanced,” McKay said.

“So I do think we’re going to have to be a little bit on the offense here with the state in terms of living up to the commitments that many of them made to teachers across the Commonwealth, not just the ones in Fairfax County but statewide.”

In addition to the deferred raises, the state has until Sept. 1 to re-evaluate revenue projections going forward.

For the past fiscal year, Virginia’s general fund revenue collections had the most significant drops from projections in payroll withholding and sales taxes.

“Payroll withholding growth of only 2.4 percent seems to have been affected by the addition of jobs in lower-wage categories and increases in part-time employment,” McAuliffe’s office said in a statement last week.

The statement also warned that an increase in online purchases may be cutting into sales tax collections at stores with physical locations in Virginia.

“Virginia’s economy is still searching for long-term stability,” House Majority Leader Kirk Cox said in a statement from Republican leadership responding to the announcement. “As we’ve done in the past and as our constitution requires, we will sit down and develop a path to balance the budget by setting priorities and making tough decisions,” Cox said.

On Friday, the state’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists is scheduled to examine a revised state revenue forecast ahead of other meetings on the issue next month. The new revision is scheduled to be presented to the General Assembly money committees Aug. 26.

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