F.C. School Board Complies With Council’s Call to Shave $215,000

Photo: News-Press
Photo: News-Press

Following the final adoption by the Falls Church City Council of its FY15 budget Monday that included a $215,000 reduction in the request for the City Schools, the Falls Church School Board met last Thursday to jump right away on where the commensurate cuts would come from in the budget for the coming year.

Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones provided the overview for the board to consider, including that the cuts so not jeopardize class sizes or staff salaries, and that the contingency fund (at only $250,000 as it is) be kept as high as possible.

Working from these parameters, the board decided to delay for a year the purchase of a new school bus (saving $90,000), to reduce the contingency fund from $250,000 to $174,000, and to reduce the budget for facilities, including building repairs, by $50,000 to $175,000.

The package was formally adopted at the School Board’s business meeting this Tuesday by a unanimous vote. The final budget numbers are $44,618,600 for the total annual budget, which includes a transfer from the City of $36,746,200. The Council mandated total of $215,000 in cuts turned out to be considerably less than one percent of the transfer from the City.

However, the reduction in the contingency fund was considered the riskiest component of the cuts, as projected enrollment growth in the fall may not be in line with current projections. Any significant increase over the projected enrollment growth could wipe out the contingency fund overnight.

The contingency fund “is not nearly as much a cushion as we would like, but the highest possible given the budgeting constraints,” Dr. Jones said Tuesday.

The unanimously-approved schedule for teacher salaries, bumped up this year in an effort to remain competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, included the following components: teachers with Bachelor of Arts degrees, starting salary at $48,500 rising to $61,570 after 12 steps; teachers with Bachelor of Arts degrees and 18 years experience, starting salary of $50,200 rising to $75,044 after 17 steps; teachers with Master of Arts degrees, starting salary at $54,000 rising to $95,075 after 28 steps; teachers with Master of Arts degrees and 30 years experience, starting salary at $56,000 rising to $99,655 after 28 steps; teachers with Doctorate degrees, starting salary at $57,500 rising to $103,438 after 28 steps.

In another development at Tuesday’s meeting, the Board’s first ever student liaison member, George Mason High School senior Maeve Curtin, was surprised by her colleagues with a bouquet of flowers and a certificate in advance of her graduation next month.

In addition to her pioneering service on the board, it was also announced that she is the first George Mason High student to win the University of Virginia’s coveted Jefferson Award.

Curtin played an active role in the School Board’s deliberations over its budget request to the City Council, speaking out emphatically on behalf of representing the actual needs of the students, rather than prematurely accepting limits on those needs in hopes of winning Council approval.

Much of the School Board’s attention will now shift to the “Joint Process Planning Committee” efforts to determine the plans for development of the 34-plus acre site on which George Mason High and Henderson Middle School sit that was conveyed into the City limits of Falls Church as part of the deal to sell the City’s water system to Fairfax County.

The School Board owns 24.76 acres of the that site, and a report of the preliminary efforts of the planning committee was presented jointly by Mayor David Tarter and School Board chair Susan Kearney Monday to the City Council night.

Serving on the committee are Kearney and Dr. Jones, Mayor Tarter, Vice Mayor David Snyder, School Board member John Lawrence, Planning Commission chair Ruth Rodgers, Michael Novotny of the F.C. Economic Development Authority and F.C. City Manager Wyatt Shields.