Budget overhauls loom as FCPS approaches $100 million deficit

For the 2015-16 school year, there is a projected shortfall of eight million dollars. Fairfax County Public Schools predicts that the 2016-17 school year will see a 100 million dollar deficit. To properly operate schools with this deficit, the FCPS website suggests that programs will need to be cut. The trend #SaveFCPS has transpired to protest this gap.

According to the FCPS website, teachers have not received a pay raise since the 2007-08 school year. Considering inflation, this means that their pay has essentially decreased in the economy.

FCPS recognizes that maintaining the caliber of the school systems requires top-notch educators. As such, its website states that if the funds are not available, programs are going to have to take the cost.

The School Board and Dr. Garza asked the Board of Supervisors for a 3.9% increase, and they gave her a 3.2%, so that was a 7.6 million deficit. This deficit leads to teachers receiving a step increase in their salary, plus a normal 1% cost of living wage received a .38% reduction in that cost of living wage, which means that the teachers are scheduled to get a step and a .62 cost of living wage.

According to Principal Jeffrey Litz, the county has cut over $500 million and let over 2100 employees from FCPS go since 2008.

This deficit will further inconsistencies among teacher salary in FCPS.

“FCPS starts towards the top in terms of beginning teachers, about ten years in we end up in the middle, and towards the end of a teachers career, we now end up at the bottom, which in the last 7 years has been unprecedented. Typically FCPS has been at the top of salary scales across a teachers career. So the deficit has really been taken out of teacher salary amongst other programs that have been cut. And now for the fiscal year 2017 with the over 100 million deficit forecasted, I don’t know how things are going to turn out really at this point. We’re going to have to take a serious look at programs,” Litz said.

Litz also stated that the concept of a six-period day has been introduced.

“I’ve heard things floated and this has been floated before, going to a six period day instead of a seven period day. This would save a considerable amount of money, but it would not be good for the student’s well being. It would cut the arts,” Litz said.

On Twitter, the #SaveFCPS spread, originally tweeted by McLean High School student Emily Robison with several teachers expressing their angst against this budget deficit.

“If we don’t start funding our schools appropriately, Fairfax County will no longer continue to be a premier system,” English teacher Cheryl Binkley said.

With this deficit, leaders of Fairfax County are confronted with the issue of teachers leaving to counties with better pay.

“I worry about that. You know Fairfax County is not an inexpensive place to live, but I think individual teachers and families have to make the decision about what’s best for them,” Litz said.

In some states, school boards have the ability to raise taxes. Virginia does not. This means that any raise in taxes to reduce the deficit would have to originate from the Board of Supervisors, who are having trouble with their own budget.

“But only about 25% of residents in Fairfax county have school-aged children. So 70-75% folks in Fairfax County not having school aged children and raising taxes specifically for the schools is not the most popular idea,” Litz said.

The issue of advanced high school testing cost also arises.

“Right now, the county absorbs the cost of students’ AP and IB testing, which amounts to about $5 million a year. If the trajectory continues, they will not be able to afford that,and that cost could be transferred to the students,” Binkley said.

As tension increases as we inch closer to the 2017 fiscal year, Litz states that, “There’s going to have to be some give and take and some balance.”