F.C. School Board Copacetic in Adoption of New FY21 Budget

5 OF THE 6 members of the F.C. School Board shown here were part of the unanimous vote to adopt their proposed FY21 budget forwarded to the City Council Tuesday night. (Photo: News-Press)

On Tuesday night, the Falls Church School Board unanimously approved its advertised budget for the 2020-2021 school year. Reflecting an investment in students, staff, and schools, the budget includes a step increase for eligible employees and a 1 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all FCCPS staff members. The budget is identical to Superintendent Peter Noonan’s proposed budget that he announced a month earlier.

The $54.6 million budget, which now heads to the Falls Church City Council for approval, falls within the 3.1 percent budget guidance (for the second year in a row) and seeking a City appropriation of $44.6 million.

The approved budget motion also includes the addition of 50 percent of any additional general government tax revenue above last December’s projections in accordance with an informal revenue sharing understanding with the City. According to F.C. City Manager Wyatt Shields, the increase over projections from December nets 0.4 percent, from the 3.1 projection to a 3.5 percent actual.

Tuesday, the School Board also approved a Food Service budget of $1.1 million and a Community Service Fund Budget in the amount of $2.4 million.

With the budget having been worked out so smoothly this season, attention turns back to the construction of the new George Mason High School, which is still on schedule for completion by next December.

A critical inflection point in the process comes tomorrow, when the traditional “topping off” celebration for a new building construction will occur. All the construction teams are invited to a free lunch to celebrate the point at which the building is covered at the top, which can accelerate the remaining construction below.

Following that, on Saturday morning, the School Board and F.C. City Council will be invited to a hard-hat tour of the project’s progress to date, which will begin at the site at 10:30 a.m.

As for the budget approved Tuesday, Superintendent Noonan told the News-Press in an interview Wednesday that he is delighted with the overall community cooperation that contributed to the good “needs-based budget” coming in under Council guidance and its ability to retain the best teachers and staff. “It is a great community whose families are so dedicated to acting on behalf of the kids,” he said.

Included in the School Board’s FY21 advertised budget are the following:

• A step increase for eligible staff

• A one percent Cost of Living Adjustment for all FCCPS staff

• An additional IB Middle Years Programme coordinator (one each for MEH and GM)

• A pre K-12 English/Language Arts coordinator to support teachers and students

• One social worker to support student’s emotional health and well-being

• Increasing the Clinic Aide/Office Staff position at Jessie Thackrey to full time

• Three new custodial positions to help maintain the additional square footage of the new high school, which, this time next year, will be open and running.

Wyatt Shields, the Falls Church City Manager, will fold the School Board request into his overall City operations budget proposal for FY21 that he will present to the Council on March 9. The Council will adopt that budget, with modifications on April 27 and the School Board will then vote on final adoption of its budget on May 5.

Among the things not included in the budget are 14 items, Noonan said, that are now being prioritized by the School Board in anticipation of some additional revenue sharing funds coming from the City over the next year.

“We are looking at a paraprofessional for special education programs, and additional reading and math teachers,” he said. He noted that programs listed as “unfunded” in last year’s budget all found their way into this year’s to be included.