Citing record enrollment growth in the past year and fears of huge added burdens from Richmond on retirement system costs, Falls Church’s new Superintendent of Schools Dr. Toni Jones presented her first recommended budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The superintendent’s recommended budget is the first step in the process of the School Board adoption of its budget by the end of February.
Dr. Jones noted a 4.5 percent growth in the enrollment in F.C. public schools, the single year increase in the past 30 years. She noted that the burden on the system to fund its obligation to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) would be the largest single year increase in history.
The added VRS burden could amount to $1 million, long with increases by around $200,000 for VRS life and health benefits.
The enrollment growth will require the hiring of five additional teachers, she said, and the regional competitive environment will require a salary increase for all staff members. “In oder to recruit and retain outstanding individuals for our classrooms, we must take care of them,” she said.
But proposed budget savings could cover the cost of adding new teachers, she suggested. She proposed consolidation of the Human Resources Office and Curriculum, the end of a testing coordinator position and reductions in the central office technica staff. Resulting in a saving of $335,700 will be the equivalent of 4.2 teachers. Her recommendation would result in an increase in the City transfer of $2,042,200.
She also noted that federal stimulus money, $541,000,will not be available in the coming year, but the school system did not use the stimulus money in general classroom operations.
The size of the school system is now 2,262 after its record enrollment increase this fall.
Dr. Jones also included a proposal for shifting Falls Church Cable Television from a cable-based to a web-based platform, a move she said would save $80,000, or enough to hire another teacher.
The total size of the City transfer to the schools under Dr. Jones’ recommendation is $29,900,000, or an increase of 7.3 percent over the current year. Overall, the school budget recommendation is for a $37,600,000 budget with an increase of 5.3 percent.
Dr. Jones received a rousing applause the members of the School Board upon the completion of her presentation.
In the audience, Jon Pepper of the Falls Church Education Association listened carefully. He then told the News-Press that he felt Dr. Jones’ proposed budget was “fiscally responsible” and “takes everything the schools need into account.”