F.C. School Board Unanimously Adopts FY22 Budget, Bringing Raises for Teachers

F.C. School Board members discuss their reasons for supporting the budget. (Screenshot: News-Press)

Falls Church City Public Schools School Board unanimously approved a $53.6 million operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2022 commencing July 1 at its meeting Tuesday night.

The budget is balanced, provides a wage increase for school employees, and provides additional supports for students. For the third year in a row, the financial plan falls within Falls Church City Council’s budget guidance presented last December.

The budget adoption, which was fully expected, came as the board learned that the (George Mason now, but Meridian as of July 1) high school’s prom is set for a week from Saturday, on May 22, as an outdoor event and the high school’s Class of 2021 graduation is set to occur outdoors on the high school athletic fields on June 2. The school system’s morning bulletin Wednesday announced that Gov. Ralph Northam has been invited to deliver the commencement address, but it is an invitation that has yet to be responded to

The F.C. School Board’s initially-agreed upon request for funding from the City, submitted in February, was embedded into City Manager Wyatt Shields’ recommended budget in March and adopted in full by the Council on April 26. The Council included the requested amount despite moving to lower the real estate tax rate by 3.5 cents to $1.32 per $100 assessed valuation.

“Rebounding from the impact of Covid‐19, the focus of the FY 2022 Budget is employee compensation, allowing FCCPS to attract, hire, and retain an exceptional, diverse staff to meet the needs of all students,” Superintendent Peter Noonan said in a statement following the budget adoption. “This budget also provides for investments to address impacts to students from Covid‐19 and required support for our new high school.”The budget includes a step increase for eligible employees and a one-and-a-half percent (1.5 percent) Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for all staff members.

Other expenditures include a projected increase in health insurance and investments to address Covid impacts on FCCPS. These include the addition of a school counselor to meet new ratios proposed by the Governor, an additional social worker to assist with our families’ emotional well-being coming out of the Covid pandemic, and a PreK-12 English/Language Arts coordinator to support teachers and students. The budget also includes three additional custodial staff for our newly opened high school.

“We want to thank the Falls Church City Council for working closely with us and for honoring the budget we’ve put forward. It means a lot,” School Board Chair Shannon Litton said. “We are glad to offer increased compensation for our teachers, who we all see as core to everything we do.”

The approved FY22 budget is an overall three percent increase from the current FY21 funding. It includes a City transfer increase of $1.1 million.

State funding is increasing by 18.25 percent or $470,000, with nearly all coming from a substantial jump in sales tax revenue. Federal revenue, primarily for special education, will increase by $32,000 from the current year. The FCCPS Enrollment projection for the next school year is 2,605 students or just over 100 more from September 30, 2020.
Details of the School Board Approved FY 2022 Budget include the following:

• Step increase for eligible employees averaging 2.5 percent

• Cost of Living increase of 1.5 percent

• Employer share of projected health insurance premium increases by 2.4 percent

• City retirement, primarily for FCCPS support positions, has a rate decrease of 0.75 percent offset by alignments to the city retirement salary base

• English/Language Arts PreK-12 Coordinator

• Social Worker to increase the support for students’ emotional well-being

• School Counselor to meet the reduced ratios required by the state

• Funding to continue to replace FCCPS’ 1:1 student laptops every four years at the middle and high school levels

• Custodial support for the new high school

• Budget reductions from the current plan ensure funding of a few of the system’s highest priorities. They include:

• Adjusting the salary base for current employees reflecting turnover from the FY 2021 school year and projecting for turnover in FY 2022 ($475,111)

• Savings from other employee benefits, which is from the discontinued transitional retirement program ($92,676)

• Reducing paraprofessional for first grade by 0.5 based on enrollment which results in a first-grade teacher moving to 2nd grade ($28,616)

• Reducing the staffing reserve, used to address enrollment variances ($62,491)

• Adjusting the budget for contracted instructional services with other jurisdictions based on historical usage ($100,000)