State Budget Provides Large Net Increase for Fairfax Public Schools

Two actions of the General Assembly produced some significant changes in state funding for Fairfax County Public Schools.

First, legislators decided to act against former Governor Kaine’s recommendation to freeze the Local Composite Index (LCI). The LCI, adjusted every two years, is a formula based on a locality’s ability to pay and determines how state money for education is disbursed. Since legislators allowed the LCI to adjust to changing economic times, FCPS will receive an additional $61.8 million. However, the General Assembly also cut state funding for K-12 education, which resulted in a $60.7 million loss for FCPS. The net effect is that FCPS will receive roughly $1.1 million in additional state funding over last year.

Second, the General Assembly reduced the amount Virginia’s school systems must contribute to the Virginia Retirement System. This move will save FCPS $109 million. Beginning in two years, that money must begin to be paid back over ten years to make up for the reduced rate. The Superintendent and School Board’s proposed budgets were based on the assumption state funding would be cut by $30 million. With these state changes, FCPS will have $140 million more available than expected. The School Board has withdrawn its request for additional county funding. FCPS is now requesting the same level of county funding as this year. The County Executive has proposed reducing that funding by $16.3 million.

The Superintendent’s tentative plan is to fully fund the School Board’s proposed budget which increases spending by more than $80 million next year, and to hold the remaining $60 million in reserve for future years. With this increased state funding, the popular programs put on the chopping block by the Superindent earlier this year will not occur. FCPS will maintain class size at current levels, retain the foreign language in the elementary schools (FLES) program and keep full day kindergarten and elementary school band and strings. It will also fund assistant principals, instructional assistants, instructional coaches, and retain freshman sports and indoor track.

Increasing funds above the County Executive’s proposed transfer of $1.77 billion to FCPS at the county level, however, would require either increasing the tax burden on county residents or making deeper cuts into other county services. In light of the current recession, we do not have the funds to accomplish all of our goals and choices will need to be made.

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