-- by Charles McAndrew, board member, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance (www.fcta.org), 09/09/2015
Tonight three FCTA board members attended a Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) budget meeting at South Lakes High School in Reston for two hours. Dr. Karen Garza, School Superintendent and Kristen Michael, Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services gave the FCPS budget presentation. Approximately 200 people were in attendance.
Besides Dr. Garza and Ms. Michael, school boards members Pat Hynes who is the new FCPS Chairman, Ted Velkoff, Kathy Smith, Ryan McElveen, Tammy Kaufax, Sandy Evans, and Susan Quinn, Chief Operating Officer were in attendance.
The highlights of the meeting are as follows:
FCPS officials expect a $50 to $80 million shortfall for FY 2017. So they are soliciting the public's comments.
88% of the total school operating budget of approximately $2.6 BILLION are for salaries and benefits for approximately 24,000 full time FCPS employees and 16,000 temporary employees. We should be reviewing their retirement program and health care costs that's are driving up the FCPS budget!
The FCPS is the 10th largest school system in the USA, with 196 schools serving about 188,000 students.
The FCPS has one of the largest fleet of school buses of about 1500 that travel 18 million miles annually. This item should be carefully reviewed!
Besides the Operating budget, they have a construction budget for building new schools and renovation of older schools. Their criteria is that when a school is 25 years old, it should be renovated. However, due to cuts in this budget, the average school does not get renovated until 34 years of age. To renovate schools, FCPS would need $242 million annually. More than 43% of schools are over capacity. In FY2015, approximately 15,200 students are educated in 992 trailers.
They claim that since FY 2008, budget reductions have totaled nearly $1/2 BILLION, including more than 2,175 positions. Yet on the same page, they show the FCPS budget increased 1.6% in FY2009, decreased .8% in FY2010, decreased 1.6% in FY2011, increased 3.6% in FY2012, increased 8.2% in 2013, increased 1.1% in FY2014, increased 1.6% in FY2015, and again increased 3.2% in FY2016.
Approximately 26,000 students receiving Special Education Services or almost 14%. In an average high school of 2,240 students, there are about 29 Special Education teachers and 13 to 14 Special Education Assistants.
Approximately 32,000 students receiving English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or about 17% of the budget. In an average high school of 2,240 students, there are about 9 ESOL teachers. In FY2016, it was estimated that about 7,000 students would receive the most intensive ESOL services; an increase of 1,465 students, or 27%.
Approximately 53,000 students are eligible and are receiving Free or Reduced-price Meals which is over 28% of the budget. It is estimated that the FCPS provide about 143,000 Free or Reduced-priced meals each day of the school week. I do NOT know what the criteria is for determining who gets a free or reduced-price meal. Remember that Fairfax County is supposed to be one of the richest counties in the USA and yet over 53,000 students out of about 188,000 receive Free or Reduced-price meals (breakfast and/or lunch).
FCPS claims that Fairfax County, even adding in the fringe benefits, falls in the middle range for teachers with Masters degree and 10 years of service among neighboring jurisdictions. In the maximum salary range, the FCPS are in the lower part of the scale for neighboring jurisdictions.
Mandatory benefit rate increases are required by the Virginia Retirement System from 80% to 90% of the actuarial rate in FY 2017 and 100% in FY 2019. There is also mandatory increases required for their employee health insurance rates. This is a large figure but they did not give us the dollar amount.
FCPS receives many regular financial and operational audits to ensure accountability. They have independent external audits and reviews by KPMG. They have state and federal audits, A-133 single audits of federal grant programs, FCPS internal audits, FCPS Office of Program Evaluation, and the State School Efficiency Reviews. This is NEWS to me! We should ask to see these audits!
Slides explaining the FCPS budget are at http://www.fcps.edu/news/fy2017.shtml. FCPS has a Budget Proposal Tool which can be used by the Fairfax citizens to insert their ideas for FCPS budget cuts. Instructions are at http://www.fcps.edu/news/fy2017/budget-tool.shtml. The tool itself is at http://budgettool.fcps.edu/.