To address that projected shortfall, FCPS' brand-new superintendent, Karen Garza, plans to suggest cuts in areas like staffing and sports, as well as slightly increased class sizes.
All of that is actually mixed news for City of Fairfax Schools, which pays "tuition" to FCPS for operational control of City schools, while the City manages things from a facilities standpoint.
The tuition the City pays to FCPS is calculated on a per-pupil basis, based on the services FCPS provides to City students.
Therefore, City of Fairfax Schools Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan told Patch this week that, as FCPS makes cuts to services, that could mean the City's tuition could actually go down.
"If the County reduces the services it provides, our per-pupil costs could be reduced," he explained.
The potential cost savings for the City of Fairfax is bittersweet.
"We certainly like the services our students receive, and wouldn't want to seem them reduced," Noonan said. "But we certainly understand the gravity of the problem on the county side."
Noonan said this week that he is "eagerly awaiting" the outcome of current conversations between the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County Public Schools officials on how to address the projected $140-million budget deficit for the 2014-15 school year.
Why the $140-Million Shortfall?
In a newsletter sent to FCPS families late last week, school officials said the primary drivers of the budget deficit include:
- Student enrollment growth—an additional 2,800 students are expected to enroll for next school year ($25 million).
- An increase in health insurance rates ($27 million).
- Increased contributions to the Virginia Retirement System ($37 million).
- Loss in state revenue through the recalculation of the state funding formula, known as the LCI, and the loss of one-time incentive funding ($21 million).
In the letter to families, school officials pointed out, "FCPS also has used one-time funding for recurring expenditures, resulting in a structural deficit. The projected deficit for FY 2015 does not include any new programs, compensation increases, or other identified needs."
FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza, who just joined the district in July, told The Washington Post that, when the school board meets Tuesday night, she is going to recommend across-the-board budget cuts that include eliminating more than 1,700 staff positions through attrition and potential layoffs; reintroducing a $100-per-sport athletics fee; and increasing class size by an average of one student.
“This is the most serious fiscal challenge that FCPS has ever faced,” said Superintendent Karen Garza. “We will need the best thinking of our employees, families, and community members to help us find solutions. Unfortunately, at this point, we will need to explore all options for reducing our expenditures.”
The County Board of Supervisors told the school board earlier this year to expect a 2 percent increase in the county’s transfer of funds to the district. That will mean the County will add about $34 million more to FCPS' budget than last year.
Last year's FCPS budget was $2.5 billion.
School board chair Ilryong Moon said the increase falls short - and if that's all the county can give, the budget deficit could creep up to as much as $149 million, according to the FCPS letter to families.
“I cannot imagine the Board of Supervisors turning their heads away from not only the challenges, but how devastating it would be if we were forced to accept those cuts,” Moon told the Post.
Budget talks will begin this week.
“I understand that these discussions [of recommended cuts] might cause some alarm among our employees and families, but at this point, we are only exploring ideas,” said Garza. “But we have to begin the discussion somewhere as we face a crisis that is not going to be easily solved."
"Final decisions will be made in May when we complete the budget process.”
What do you think of the proposed cuts? Do you think the places to cut spending that Garza suggested are the right ones to start with? Share your thoughts on the situation in the comments.
FOLLOW FAIRFAX CITY PATCH FOR THE LATEST NEWS AND EVENTS!Facebook | Twitter | Daily & Breaking News E-mail Updates