F.C. School Board OKs $37.6 Million Budget With ‘Full Step’

By a vote of 6-1 Tuesday night, the Falls Church City School Board approved a $37.6 million operating budget for the coming school year that calls for a 7.4 percent increase in the City’s contribution.

The budget will be incorporated into the overall City of Falls Church budget recommendation by City Manager Wyatt Shields, which he is slated to present to the City Council this coming Monday.

The final decision on the dollar amounts in the budget will be up to the City Council, which will have to weigh the balance between revenues and expenditures to make the tough political choices on tax rates and programs that will conclude with its final vote on April 23. The adopted budget will then go into effect on July 1.

The School Board’s FY13 budget plan is 5.3 percent larger than the current fiscal year, and includes the first full year, full “step increase” for all teacher and staff in nearly three years.

Only Board member Kieran Sharpe opposed the budget plan, wanting it to go farther to “correct the inequalities” in compensation and program funding when compared with neighboring school systems.

The approved School Board budget calls for a 7.4 percent increase in the transfer from the F.C. City Council, the first increase in local funding sought since 2008 although $165,000 less than was requested in that year.

During that four year interim, the Falls Church City Public School system’s student population has increased percent with nearly a third of that increase coming in the last year alone.
The School Board’s approved budget, the first crafted with Dr. Toni Jones as Superintendent, includes:

• hiring of five new teachers in Kindergarten through eighth grades, and two high school special education teachers;

• full “step increase” in salaries for all eligible employees beginning July 2012;

• plans for “hybrid learning” – blending high-quality teachers with digital content and tools;

• replacement/update of 11 year old math and science textbooks for elementary and middle schools;

• complete wireless network for George Mason High and enhancement to Mary Ellen Henderson’s network;

School Board noted Tuesday that its budget reflects priorities outlined in its “Five Pillars of Excellence:” small schools, small classes, 21st Century teaching and learning, outstanding staff and readiness for learning.

Members of the School Board and City Council were scheduled to meet in a public forum histed by the Henderson Middle School PTA last night. It promised to elicit the first reaction of Council members to the plan that could signal how contentious, or not, the overall City budget debate over the next seven weeks will be.

Mayor Nader Baroukh, in a short conversation with the News-Press yesterday, said, “I look forward to the School Board presenting their budget request to the City Council and to the community. I encourage all citizens to stay engaged as we begin to deliberate the City’s overall budget.”

Following the City Manager’s recommended budget presentation Monday night at the City Council’s next regular meeting, an exhaustive series of work sessions, public hearings, town hall meetings and Council votes on related ordinances will occur.

While little comment is expected Monday as Shields lays out his plan, the first critical meeting will be a joint City Council, School Board and Planning Commission work session on Thursday, March 15, when an overview of the City’s finances, including revenue projections, will be provided. That will be followed by the first of two Town Hall meetings on Saturday, March 17, in the Community Center.