At the Falls Church School Board’s first meeting of the new year, and first held in person at the new Council chambers in City Hall since before the Covid-19 pandemic kicked in almost two years ago, the Council unanimously elected a new chair and vice chair, Laura Downs and Tate Gould, and was presented the new budget year’s proposed budget by Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan.
The proposed budget for the 2022-2023 school year that will be finally adopted next May, will represent, if adopted, the fourth in a row that funds all the critical functions of the school system while staying within the “guidance” as presented by the City Council last month, according to Noonan.
“The past 18 months have been challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing effects. These effects have placed significant demands on schools, teachers, students, parents, and the entire community,” Noonan said. “The Falls Church Public Schools staff has been working diligently to craft a budget that reflects the priorities of our school system, is responsive to our collective needs now and into the future, and is ultimately in alignment with our mission, vision, values and goals being developed in our new strategic plan.”
Key elements of the proposed new budget include a step increase for eligible employees, a recovery step from FY 2021 for eligible employees, a cost of living increase of two percent for all employees, the addition of new career and technical education positions, new math and science teacher positions, a new school nurse and psychologist and a “secondary campus parent liaison.”
Noonan explained in an introduction to his proposed budget, “In December, the City Council approved Budget Guidance that reflects the City’s organic revenue growth, which is projected to be a 6.3 percent, or a $2,275,000 increase. This year, increases in funding from the governor’s proposed budget includes an increase in sales tax revenue of $422,953 and an increase in state funding of $527,619.
“These increases in local and state funding will allow us to address our most pressing needs which are employee compensation, working conditions, and immediate and long-term school investments to support students and staff. We must do everything we can to support teachers, staff, and students by addressing the impact of the last two years on teacher recruitment, retention, and social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs.
Key elements of his proposed budget include a step increase for eligible employees, a recovery step from FY 2021 for eligible employees, a cost of living increase of two percent for all employees, and an employer share of projected health insurance premium increases of 10 percent.
Other additions include new career and technical education (CTE) teacher high school program coordinator, CTE teachers’ contract extensions, a new math teacher to provide instructional support for students, math intervention positions increased to full-time, a math/science middle school teacher, a parent liaison at the secondary campus, permanent substitute teachers for each school, playground supervision to relieve teachers, professional development for all staff, reading, math, and summer teacher-leader stipends, an added school nurse, school psychologist, systems engineer and tech educator.
There will also be inflationary adjustments, preschool registrar and clinic support alignments, property insurance, a school security contract, funding for technology equipment and services, tuition resources for students attending the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and vehicle maintenance support.
Budget reductions, where possible, include adjusting the salary base for current employees reflecting turnover from the FY 2022 school year and projecting for turnover in FY 2023, savings from other employee benefits which includes the discontinued transitional retirement program, other post employment benefits, and city retirement rate decreases.
Noonan said, “The school system is grateful for the support of the City Council, School Board, and community in the preparation of this budget. For the fourth year, FCCPS has developed a budget that funds the most pressing, critical needs, while staying within City Council Budget Guidance.”
In the coming period, the School Board is slated to take the Superintendent’s proposed budget and adjust if necessary to adopt it by February 22, and submit it to the F.C. City Manager to be attached to his proposed Citywide budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that is slated to be adopted at the end of April.