Tuesday, March 7, 2023
At its Feb. 23 meeting, the Fairfax County School Board adopted the Superintendent’s proposed FY 2024 Advertised Budget. School Board Representative Abrar Omeish (Member-at-Large) abstained.
The School Operating Fund budget for the Advertised FY24 Budget is $3.5 billion, a net increase of $249.6 million, or 7.6 percent, over the FY23 Approved Budget.
"This is a solid budget," Superintendent Michelle C. Reid said. "We believe the needs expressed within the budget are needs that are going to meet the vision, mission, and goals of our projects at FCPS."
According to online documents, 86 percent of the budget is spent on instruction, while the county and state provide 96 percent of operating revenue. The county transfer request is $159.6 million, or 7.0 percent, over the approved county transfer for FY23. Approximately 34 percent of FCPS's projected enrollment of 179,952 students in FY 2024 are economically disadvantaged.
"FY 24 may be another challenging year due to the impact of the pandemic and limited new revenue," said Eileen Tholen, (Dranesville District) representative.
The Superintendent's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 24 focuses on competitive compensation for all employees, closing achievement gaps, increasing enrollment, investing in early literacy and prekindergarten expansion, continuing current multiyear initiatives (Joint Environmental Task Forse, advanced academics, HR system replacement), and security initiatives.
Tholen discussed the board's adopted resolution (Nov. 14, 2022), which identified priorities. It requested that the superintendent continue to focus on a "needs-based approach for school staffing," as well as "student academic success and closing achievement and opportunity gaps." Other priorities included student health and wellness.
"The retention bonus included in the governor's introduced budget is non-recurring, and if that survives the General Assembly's deliberations, it may be funded with FY 23 carryover," Tholen said. She said that the budgets released by the House and Senate last week differ significantly, and "neither proposal provides funds to address the VDOE error." According to Tholen, the error costs FCPS $12.7 million in state revenue. "The Senate and House Budgets currently result in a net negative impact on FCPS ranging from $30 million to $39 million, including a loss of $12.7 million," Tholen explained.
"Overall, it is a good news budget," Tholen said. "Raises for our employees, step increases, as well as initiatives that provide needed support to our students."
Among the school board's proposed follow-up motions on the FY 2024–28 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the board unanimously approved a proposal sponsored by Karl Frisch (Providence) and Stella Pekarsky (Sully) It directs Reid to develop an annual updated School Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Assessment Program.
"From Oakton and Vienna to Tysons and Falls Church, school communities across the county face significant road and pedestrian safety concerns that too often result in tragedy," Frisch said.
"There is nothing more important to me as a mother and school board member than the safety of our students," Pekarsky added.
The school board unanimously approved two follow-on motions proposed by board members for the school year calendar 2023–2024, the first involving efforts to increase childcare options and the second to develop a more equitable school calendar policy.
Karen Corbett Sanders (Mount Vernon) presented the childcare motion, saying that it would "provide some relief for working parents."
Melanie K. Meren (Hunter Mill) described the county's limited school-based childcare options as "one that just continues to stagnate.” You can't just keep saying to people there's no space (in SACC, the school-aged childcare program),” Meren said.
The board approved Sanders' proposal, which directs Reid to work with County Executive Bryan Hill to develop a plan for promoting enrichment and/or recreational activities in which students may participate when schools are closed for professional work days or extended periods.
Abrar Omeish (Member-at-Large) introduced the second calendar follow-up motion. According to Omeish, vacation is an opportunity for some families to enjoy recreation, but for others, "it's a struggle with burdensome expenses." They are concerned about childcare and must deplete funds that could be used for other purposes.
The school board unanimously approved motion that "directs the Board governance committee to work with the superintendent on developing a new calendar policy or to revise existing regulation 1344 to devise a comprehensive calendar policy that includes but is not limited to which factors are considered calendar criteria, how they are prioritized in ways that are equitable and fair, what roles various entities play in informing the process, and the timeline by which this occurs; and to present this draft to the board early enough for it to be approved before any future calendar discussion or development."