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Fairfax Superintendent Proposes Slashing 731 Positions, Increasing Class Sizes

Increased student enrollment, retirement rate costs and health insurance rates drive budget decisions.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza | Submitted photo
Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza | Submitted photo

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza has released her $2.5 billion proposed budget for the next fiscal year, the starting point in a months-long process that recommends slashing 731 positions and increasing class sizes.

Garza's proposal represents a net increase of 2.4 percent, or $59.4 million, from the current spending plan, according to a news release.

School officials say the increased spending will, in part, be off-set by cuts of $96 million in other areas, like slashing more than 730 jobs districtwide.

The budget also:

1. Adds $4.2 million in new fees for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests,

2. Increases fees for community use of Fairfax County Public Schools facilities,

3. Includes a proposed step increase for eligible employees of $41 million.

“The FY 2015 Proposed Budget uses a shared approach of reducing expenditures and requesting additional revenue while protecting the classroom and programs for students as much as possible,” Garza said in a statement.

“While we have reduced and streamlined our operations over the past several budget cycles, we are facing a number of increased expenditures that are beyond our control, including annual growth in student enrollment, an increase in health insurance rates, and an increase in the required contributions to the Virginia Retirement System."

Nearly 100 meetings were held to gather input from parents, employee associations, advisory councils, members of the community and elected officials, she stated.

Since the 2009-10 school year, student enrollment has grown by 15,603 students — more than the total enrollment of Alexandria City Public Schools, according to a news release. 

Fairfax County Public Schools expects enrollment to be 187,994 students next year.

That growth and the changing demographics associated with it will require an additional $25.8 million in school-based resources, the news release states.

Increases in retirement rate costs are estimated to be $38.9 million and increases in health insurance rates are estimated to be $23.9 million.

Among the superintendent’s proposed reductions are:

Eliminating 82 positions from central support, which includes the costs associated with support services for finance, human resources, information technology, purchasing, facilities, and administration. The central support budget would be reduced by 6 percent or $13.4 million.

Eliminating 180.5 positions from school support including assistant principals, technology specialists, school clerical employees, and custodians. The administrative intern program would also be eliminated. For central support and school support positions, the school system would work to place effected employees in other positions when possible based on vacancies. The school support budget would be reduced by 3 percent or $17.1 million.

Eliminating 468.7 classroom positions by increasing class sizes and reducing needs-based staffing, instructional assistants, and the career and transition program. To help mitigate the class size increases, 20 positions would be added to the staffing reserve specifically to address recurring larger class sizes at a limited number of schools. For teacher scale positions, the reductions are offset by overall staffing increases needed to accommodate enrollment growth and by typical annual turnover. These reductions represent 2 percent or $36 million of the classroom budget.

Some of the proposed reductions were adopted from the State School Efficiency Review, including a reduction of assistant principals at smaller elementary and middle schools, adjustments to clerical staffing at the elementary level, and a reduction in the number of custodial positions.

In years past, the school system has had to implement pay freezes and eliminate step increases. Starting teacher salaries remain competitive, but those for experienced teachers have fallen "way behind" those in other jurisdictions, Garza stated.

Fairfax County Public Schools has the lowest percentage of leadership and management positions among school districts in the greater Washington area, the news release states.

The school system is counting on nearly 72 percent of its revenue to come from county tax coffers.

The county provides additional support for programs such as Head Start, school health, school resource officers, school crossing guards, after-school programming, field maintenance and recreational programs.

The superintendent’s proposed budget is only the starting point of the budget process, which ends in May with adoption by the Fairfax County School Board.

The school board will hold public hearings on the 2014-15 budget on Jan. 27 and 28, and a budget work session on Jan. 30.

The board will present its budget to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on April 8.

Additional information about participating in the budget process and a list of important dates is available online.

What do you think of the proposal? If you don't like it, what would you change?

McLparent January 11, 2014 at 08:30 AM
I recommend cuts to include head start, esol, lunch program, and foreign languages. Can't keep funding those programs at the same levels. Don't raise taxes.

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