At a highly-anticipated early joint Falls Church City Council and School Board joint meeting tonight, a scheme by some on the Council to compel School Board members to commit in advance to financial parameters of their budget request for the next fiscal year was repelled forcefully by the School Board, led by its chair Joan Wodiska.
Mayor Nader Baroukh went into tonight’s meeting saying he hoped that the two bodies could arrive at a consensus on FY12 budget “guidance” for a formal resolution that would be voted on by the Council as early as a week from today. But by the time the 3.5 hour meeting ended, there was agreement on almost nothing, except that the City should restore its fund balance on lines recommended by City Manager Wyatt Shields and that businesses should not be hit with new meals or other taxes.
Wodiska and others on the School Board, including Greg Rasnake, Rosaura Aguerrebere, Kieran Sharpe and Patrick Riccards, forcefully resisted the pressure from Baroukh and Councilman Ira Kaylin, in particular, to agree to a compact that would behead the school budget in advance from any deliberative consideration of the schools’ actual needs.
“This approach represents a fundamental shift in how we do business in Falls Church,” Wodiska charged, saying that past cooperation between the Council and School Board has been predicated on their distinct roles. “Our job is to tell you what we need,” she said. Citing projected continued growth in enrollment in the Falls Church School System, challenged the Council to consider some form of per pupil funding index.
Rasnake chimed in, “In the name of collaboration, what’s being proposed is a fusion of roles. Honestly, decisions about revenue sources is your role,” he told the Council. “You need us to inform youi of what we need.”
Riccards said that the parameters for a proposed budget “guidance” resolution “are being presented to us as a fait accompli, with for us less than 24 hours to review.” Sharpe said that it is not appropriate “to leap to the envelope at this stage when we (the School Board–ed.) haven’t completed our assessment.” Augerrebere said, “We’ve always asked for what we need, nothing more. In this there is no procedure to come back saying we need more.” Riccards noted that the School Board through its own budget deliberations offered a nearly six percent cut in its budget to the Council last spring.
But Kaylin shot back, “Yes, this is a whole new way of doing it, that’s the whole point. This is a new world and a new approach to it.” He said that economic realities are a “constraint to us all.”
Wodiska came back, saying “there is no consensus on the Council, even, that this process is correct.”
So, elements of the “guidance” related to real estate tax issues and the percentage breakdown of what should be allocated to the schools versus the City government were left off the table entirely by the end of tonight’s meeting.