FCPS' $140 Million Budget Shortfall is Mixed News for City Schools

On one hand, it means reduced services to students—on the other hand, it could actually save the City some money.

How a $140-million budget shortfall for Fairfax County Public Schools could affect City of Fairfax schools. (Patch File Photo)
How a $140-million budget shortfall for Fairfax County Public Schools could affect City of Fairfax schools. (Patch File Photo)
Although the budget development process has barely started for next school year’s funding, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is facing a bottom-line budget deficit of $140.7 million in FY 2015, due to "revenues that have not kept pace with growing enrollment and increasing mandatory costs," school officials said this week.

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.


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Kim McCoy October 23, 2013 at 10:56 AM
Tom & Wendy, the reason Patch promotes the bold faced lies is because they are owned by AOL and in turn by Ariana Huffington, one of the biggest, richest, progressive liberals on the planet. It is their mission to disseminate only that which supports big government, entitlements, and the every-increasing nanny state...that's why they are only in the most liberal states or zip codes. It's not about truth; it's about propaganda, misinformation, and demonization of all who dare to challenge their dogma. I only hope that the people of Fairfax County (government workers or not) finally see what their policies create and VOTE FOR KEN CUCCINELLI before the whole state is in the same crisis as we are. Talk to everyone you know and tell them a vote for McAuliffe, is a vote for serfdom..the next move will be to raise our already outrageous property taxes...bank on it.
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) October 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM
Kim - you have that wrong. We are owned by AOL, yes, who ALSO OWNS the Huffington Post. HuffPo does not own us, we are siblings. And for that matter, neither AOL nor HuffPo have any say whatsoever on the content we produce. AOL does add additional content to our site, but has no control over the content we ourselves produce. In regards to the additional information on this issue the Post has written, the Post has a lot more resources than we do. I hold much of their reporting in a high regard and will sometimes draw from it with credit to them. But I take offense to any reader claiming we are "owned" by anyone, controlled by anyone, and promote "bold-faced lies." If you feel FCPS is lying, take it up with them. We reported on a letter they sent to families - if it contains lies, that's on them.
Kim McCoy October 23, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Sure Jennifer, whatever you say...you want to tell us who you voted for?...across the board?
Kim McCoy October 23, 2013 at 01:55 PM
...or why The Patch has absolutely NO PRESENCE in the heartland?
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) October 23, 2013 at 01:59 PM
I am and have always been a registered independent. Me personally, I don't believe in voting straight down any party line. I attempt to judge each and every candidate on their individual positions. In the past I have voted both Democrat and Republican (and even once Libertarian). As for Nov 5, I am still making up my mind on many of the races. We all know you're voting for Cuccinelli because you feel the need to mention it (in all caps) in every single article on this site regardless of whether it not the article has anything to do with the governor's race (if which this one does not!) I don't see what who I am voting for for governor has anything to do with an article such as this on a school district's budget.
Kim McCoy October 23, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Jennifer, you seem to take quite a bit of, what was it Mary Ann Barton called it?..."umbrage" to me posting Mr. Cuccinelli's name on your site. Tell me, living most of your life in San Fransisco, did you vote for Nancy Pelosi?...or were you not in her district?...btw, as an editor, you might want to take a moment to proof you own posts as the one above has two grammatical mistakes.
Kim McCoy October 23, 2013 at 02:33 PM
To Tom & Wendy, I thought you might want to have a look at this 338 page spreadsheet of county salaries... keep in mind, it DOESN'T INCLUDE SCHOOLS...it will take your breath away...........http://www.scribd.com/doc/32530072/Fairfax-County-VA-Employee-Salaries-2009
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) October 23, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Kim, I'll try to answer all your questions here....1) I don't have any problem you or anyone else mentioning Cuccinelli's name on my site, or McAuliffe's for that matter. What I have a problem with is you assuming you know who I vote for based on an article that has nothing to do with a political race. Not to mention, I resent you thinking you anyone votes for, is any of your business whatsoever. And you do it to other readers who comment on various articles too. As one other reader in another article yesterday said, "you bully people in the comments and ruin the comment streams for everyone" who wants to have a civilized discussion. 2) No, I wasn't in Pelosi's district. I did not live in San Francisco, I lived a little south of there near San Jose (the greater SF Bay Area). Not that that's any of your business, as I said, who I voted for in the past. 3) Grammatical mistakes...common when using the iPhone. I proofread what I write in news articles, am not so nitpicky about it in comments. Now that I've answered those, I'm done arguing with you. I usually don't let myself get pulled into arguments like this with commenters, but what you said about AOL and HuffPo was so blatantly wrong I felt I needed to clarify. Have a good day.
Sandra Bishop October 23, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Fairfax County is not even in the top 20 of the HIGHEST TAX rates in the U.S. http://fallschurchtimes.com/29037/top-20-counties-ranked-by-property-taxes/ And it's fourth, not HIGHEST INCOME http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2013/09/24/arlington-loudoun-highest-incomes-in.html So, we see once again how we can just make up "facts."
Kim McCoy October 23, 2013 at 03:44 PM
I see Jennifer called in the reinforcements...Sandra, Arlington county, that sits at #1, is a county fully enclosed within Fairfax County. You can nitpick reality all you like, but it doesn't change it. Fairfax County sits a #2 ONLY because Arlington has INCORPORATED...here's the link.....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highest-income_counties_in_the_United_States#2012_2.................second, you can also nitpick the highest tax rates too, but it doesn't change the fact that we are at the top.
Kim McCoy October 23, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Jennifer, I'm sure if you look up "bullying" in the dictionary, no where does it say, "someone who disagrees with your point of view....and why is it that "your site" has NO presence in any one of the 29 states that are conservative or lean conservative?....I think I mentions to the other posters above that "it's about demonization of all who dare to challenge their dogma"....Thanks for proving my point. I'm sorry if facts upset the delicate liberal balance ruin your "civilized" discussion...LOL
Sandra Bishop October 24, 2013 at 11:17 AM
No , Kim , sorry, it is NOT a fact that Fairfax is at the top of the highest tax rate. It's not nitpicking--look at the list. Fairfax is not even in the top TWENTY, never mind at the top. And Fairfax is 4th in income, behind Arlington, Loudoun, and Howard County. Not nitpicking to point out that Howard County is in Maryland. Creating your own "facts" , to the point of rearranging geography counts as dogma.
Kim McCoy October 24, 2013 at 11:32 AM
YES SANDRA, we are. Here's the link and you'll notice it's from FORBES......http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/15/property-taxes-high-lifestyle-real-estate-counties-assessment-taxes_slide_2.html?partner=msnre............Fairfax is NOT 4th, all you have to do is highlight the link, right click, choose open link and it's RIGHT THERE in front of your face.
Kim McCoy October 24, 2013 at 11:39 AM
Jennifer, have you heard? AOL, which is owned by Time Warner, just made the first deal to distribute Al Jazzerra America, the anti-American, terrorist-sympatizing "network"...you good with that?
Kim McCoy October 24, 2013 at 11:43 AM
Sandra Bishop October 24, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Funny, Kim, when I click on your link, it says County: Lake County, Ill. , which I'm pretty sure isn't in Fairfax County.
Sandra Bishop October 24, 2013 at 11:51 AM
and for income, on your cited Wiki page, Ffx is listed as 4th on first table and second on the second table. Again, not first.
Kim McCoy October 24, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Sandra, you said Fairfax wasn't in the top twenty...if you had enough...how shall I say this...forethought to click through, you would see we are CLEARLY in the top twenty...#12, only after 6 mafia-controlled Illinois counties surrounding Chicago and several in New York...and Either you didn't open my link or you're just being dishonest. Table 1.2, The UPDATED EDIT to the original post CLEARLY lists us as #2 only behind Arlington.....never the less, your inability to see the forest for the trees is becoming quite tedious...as on the other thread, you refuse to see the BIG PICTURE....probably because you just don't want to.
Kim McCoy October 24, 2013 at 01:38 PM
..and Sandra, once you do click through and find us, please be sure to tell the other readers just how much above the national average our property taxes are....oh, nevermind, I'll do it for you....From Forbes: PERCENTAGE ABOVE NATIONAL AVERAGE: 291%...THAT'S 291%.
Sandra Bishop October 24, 2013 at 05:24 PM
The slides you cite are are NOT in order by the amount of annual property taxes. You have to actually read the number ON the slides for annual property tax, not the numbers OF the slides. The slides are also ranked by region. They list the top in 4 in the midwest first. Then the top four in another region. And so on. For example, slide #6 has $4,919 in annual taxes. Slide #7 has $8,404 in taxes. So #6 does not mean the #6 highest in the nation. Fairfax is not even #12. If you spent as much time actually reading what you cite rather than yelling about it, to say nothing of attacking people who actually read what you cite, you might have noticed that the slides aren't in order by amount of taxes. Westchester County is 612% ABOVE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, which by real world math, is more than double how much higher than national average Fairfax is.
Kim McCoy October 24, 2013 at 07:00 PM
WOW Sandra, you just don't get it, do you?...What are you trying to prove? That 291% above national average is so much better than 612%...There are 3144 counties in this country and you are trying to find a way to prove me wrong because technically we are not THE #1 worst in property taxes...Why are you arguing? Here, we are the #2 highest income, second only to Arlington which is encircled by us and we are #12 out of 3144 in property tax rates...Does that change anything? Does that give you satisfaction? I hope so, because the big picture continues to escape you at every turn...
rbud October 25, 2013 at 08:43 AM
McCoy's comments are political ranting nonsense, nothing more. McCoy misstates the facts of the matter and claims the schools and children are harmed by influences not even related. It's a politically errant and ignorant view which offers nothing toward solutions or constructive reasoning. To pick up on one of McCoy's statements, from my perspective, McCoy's comments are a mark of the character of person who would vote for Cuccinelli. As a Tea Party favorite, Cuccinelli would likely reduce public school funding, making matters even worse for FCPS, while attempting to turn VA into a Roman Catholic theocracy. No thanks, on both topics.
Sandra Bishop October 25, 2013 at 09:27 AM
Kim, you are the one who just doesn't get it. The "big picture" is this: you make up facts to suit your arguments and then attack anyone who questions your made-up facts. When you use utter BS as the starting point, not likely to make good policy decisions.
Sandra Bishop October 25, 2013 at 09:35 AM
rbud, to your point, see today's Washington Post series on the candidates positions on "public" education: "State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), seeking to end that frustration, has said that as governor he would work to amend the Virginia Constitution to help charter schools and private schools compete with the state’s traditional public schools." "Cuccinelli’s proposed amendments — which need legislative and voter approval to become effective — would allow the state Board of Education to approve charter schools. They would also permit public support of religious schools through voucher-like scholarships or tax credits" Now that's an interesting plan to improve public education for all our kids--divert funds to private schools. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/virginia-gubernatorial-candidates-take-different-approaches-to-education/2013/10/24/f6b2bf44-3079-11e3-8906-3daa2bcde110_story.html
Kim McCoy October 25, 2013 at 09:45 AM
"KEL", is that you?
Kim McCoy October 25, 2013 at 09:51 AM
"Utter BS?"....are you saying we aren't at the top of the highest income and tax rates in the country?...Is that what you are calling utter BS, Sandra?..really?
Sandra Bishop October 25, 2013 at 10:20 AM
Utter BS is that we are the HIGHEST, as you said. For the last time, really (talk about tedious), yes we are high (but not highest) income, in top 5. No we are NOT in the top in taxes. We are not even in the top 20 in property taxes, no matter how many times you say it. Here is the full list, based on the 2010 census (American Community Survey), the latest data available nationwide, where you will see that Fairfax is 45th in the nation: http://taxfoundation.org/legacy/show/23649.html
Kim McCoy October 25, 2013 at 10:35 AM
Sandra, if your distinction is that we are not #1, but #2 in HIGHEST INCOME and #12 out of 3,144 counties in PROPERTY TAX RATES means my original premise is somehow wrong, then you keep your head in the sand and I'll keep mine planted firmly in reality...OK?
Kim McCoy October 25, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Tom & Wendy...I just thought you should know that Fairfax County, in all of it's infinite wisdom, just launched a radio station to be funded by the office of public affairs...I guess hiring people to put out duplicate weather forecasts that we can all get somewhere else, is more important than using those funds to educate our children...
Rolling Thunder 2013 October 25, 2013 at 07:06 PM
I saw the story about the radio station earlier today and thought about the duplicity too. Next I suppose they'll be offering broadcasts in 25 different languages and giving illegal aliens instructions on how the game the system. When will Sharon and Gerry have their own show? Who will get the highest ratings? Tune in tomorrow, same time, same station, for another episode of, "How to Throw Your Money Away". Sponsored by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and the James P. Moran for Congress campaign.


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