F.C. School Board Chief Says More Cuts Will ‘Severely Hinder’ School

In a strongly-worded letter to the News-Press today, Falls Church School Board Chair Ron Peppe stated plainly that “additional reductions (in the School Board’s budget) could severely hinder the school system’s ability to deliver quality instruction.” The letter was in response to a call by members of the F.C. City Council to come up with additional cuts beyond those adopted by the School Board in February.

“The school board’s proposed FY11 budget is already more than $2 million less than the current year’s budget and reduces staffing by nearly eight full time positions…Further cuts would severely compromise our ability to deliver quality instructional programs to our students and jeopardize our standing as one of the finest small school systems in the nation,” Peppe, who is now also a candidate for the Falls Church City Council, wrote.

He urged citizens to speak out in support of the current School Board budget at a town hall meeting this Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Community Center, and at the City Council’s public budget hearing Monday at 7:30 p.m.

A joint City Council-School Board work session Monday night focused on future capital improvement plans, rather than on the current budget deliberation. But that did not stop School Board member Rosaura Aguerrebere, up for re-election next month, from piping up on the current budget. “It feels like the City Council is treating the Board’s evaluation of its budget needs as a ‘pet project,'” she intoned. “We’ve been very diligent. To hear tonight that we’re cutting more from the schools’ budget, we can’t do it.”

Mayor Robin Gardner responded that the exercise in contemplating major additional cuts to the City and schools’ budgets “is to show what would happen with a holding the tax rate to 10 or 15 cents, instead of 20 cents as currently proposed,” adding, “I know they are draconian cuts, but this (exercise) is a way to show citizens that if we don’t raise the tax rate by 20 centers, then these are the major cuts you’ll get.”

The City Council will hear a report from City Manager Wyatt Shields on what holding the tax rate increase to 10 or 15 cents would mean for critical City “lines of service” at a work session in City Hall this Thursday night.