Superintendent Proposes 8.5% F.C. School Budget Hike to $41,389,240

Falls Church School Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones presented an enrollment-growth-driven recommended budget to the School Board tonight that called for a net increase of $3,231,000, an 8.5 percent increase to $41,389,240. With resources expected to decline from other sources, her budget’s dependency on a transfer of funds from the F.C. City Council accounts for 83 percent of the total for $34,405,800, or a 14.8 percent increase.

Meanwhile, across town at City Hall, the City Council was being told by City Manager Wyatt Shields that with an expected overall growth of revenues at 3.88 percent over the previous year, a transfer to the schools at six percent would leave the real estate tax rate unchanged, but each percent above six percent would add the equivalent to a penny on the tax rate. Thus, Dr. Jones’ proposed budget would require a nine-cent increase in the tax rate from its current $1.27 level to $1.36.

School Board chair Susan Kearney introduced Dr. Jones for her budget recommendation tonight by stressing that the School Board wanted Dr. Jones to present a budget based only on the actual needs of the system, ignoring other pressures such as guidance from the City Council.

Dr. Jones noted that the system has experienced a whopping increase in enrollment since 2005. up from 1,872 then to 2,272 by 2012, with half the increase coming in just the previous two years.The number is expected to approach 2,400 by the end of the next school year.

She broke out categories of increase mandated by state and federal law, then “critical need” categories associated with the enrollment growth. Her budget also includes a step salary increase for all staff and a one percent “scale adjustment,” as well as health insurance, retirement fund and health aide salary adjustment increases.

Combined, those added costs total $3,231,100 in operating expenses (led by hiring to meet current enrollment needs of $1,670,500, step increases of $730,000, one percent scale adjustment of $295,300 and safety and security upgrades of $236,000).

The School Board will have its first work session to address Dr. Jones’ budget next Tuesday, Jan. 29, followed by a Feb. 9 public hearing, a regular School Board meeting Feb. 12, a second public hearing and work session Feb. 26, and its adoption of its budget to forward to the City Council on March 5.