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F.C. School Board Zeroing In on Budget With 9% Increase

Members of the FC School Board deliberated over their proposed budget tonight. (Photo: News-Press)
Members of the FC School Board deliberated over their proposed budget tonight. (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church School Board went round and round in a work session Tuesday night on five scenarios devised by Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones for budgets she could work with to present to the City Manager on March 4, settling in on one calling for about a nine percent increase over last year, but still almost twice the increase that some on the City Council have said they would support.

The explosive enrollment growth of the F.C. School System, growing at a faster pace in the last four years than any other system in the region, has accounted for the need for the increased funding beyond what City Council members say they’ll be willing to support to date. As School Board members deliberated on their numbers, they were reminded that their budgets are almost entirely “people centered,” based on compensating teachers and staff, and maintaining small classroom sizes with world-class instruction. “We have hardly and ‘stuff’ beyond people needs,” Superintendent Jones reminded the board.

The School Board’s final vote on the budget request it will send to the City Manager, and eventually to the City Council, will come next Tuesday at the School Board offices conference room, where more than a dozen on-lookers followed carefully the deliberations of the board.

Board vice chair Justin Castillo told his colleagues that he’d heard at least four (out of seven) Council members are committed at this stage to no tax rate increase in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, because a robust increase in real estate assessments will already cause tax bills to rise, on top of a new Storm Water Utility fee that all property owners will get tagged with.

But in the end tonight, the board was in agreement that its job was to pass onto the Council what the school system’s needs actually are, and not to try too hard to conform their request with the City Council’s wishes.