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County Supervisors: 8.4 Percent Increase To Schools 'Unrealistic'

School board members, teachers cautiously optimistic about Superintendent Jack Dale's $2.4 billion budget proposal

Fairfax County School Board members and teachers are praising teacher raises, hires and other plans to address the system’s rising enrollment — but some officials say his request for an increase of 8.4 percent in county funds, which dictates , is unrealistic.

"Boy, 8 percent sounds like quite a jump,"  Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova said Friday. "We need to be sensitive to the affordability of taxes to our residents. … An 8 percent increase seems like a stretch."

Steve Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, acknowledged Dale's proposal was facing a tough fight.

"I don't think it does any good to be anything but optimistic," he said.

The county's transfer to the schools, funded largely by real estate and personal property taxes, accounts for nearly 71 percent of Dale's proposed budget; about 53 percent of the county's budget goes to the schools.

When presenting the budget to the board Thursday night, Dale told school board members several unpredictable budget factors were in play, among them, the amount of the county transfer and state-level cuts included in Gov. Bob McDonnell's budget, which won't be finalized until April.

County Executive Anthony Griffin won't release his budget proposal for the county, including a transfer amount, until Feb. 28. Supervisor John Foust, echoing what Dale told reporters earlier on Thursday, said Griffin has informally mentioned a 5 percent increase in the county's transfer.

That would amount to an increase of about $80 million, instead of the $135.4 million increase Dale included in his proposal.

Even a 5 percent increase is "kind of high," Foust said. "But we'll start at the point."

"We have to increase the schools budget with a cost of living" increase, he said.

Bulova said the county's recovery is "very tepid," insufficient to meet all of the "pent-up demands" including more funding for human services, public safety and transportation.

"Managing expectations is going to be a major challenge during this budget," said Bulova, who added she hadn't yet been fully been briefed on the details of Dale's proposal. "I am sympathetic to the needs of the school system with a growing student population that they're struggling to serve, so some increase is probably reasonable in order for them to meet that challenge. … It’s important we continue to maintain the kind of excellent school system that makes everything else work well."

School Board members and a teacher union representative were cautiously optimistic Thursday night after Dale's presentation.

Patty Reed (Providence) said after years of talking about teacher compensation and workload, Dale's proposal "put our money where our mouth is" on the issues; improving both has been near the top of the board's priority list for several years.

"There's a whole lot to like in this budget, if we can get the funding," said Dan Storck (Mount Vernon), whose district is often home to many of the system's minority, disadvantaged or underperforming students. The budget, particularly the reinstatement of summer school, would "truly make a difference for our neediest kids," he said.

Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) told Dale the projected population and demographic shifts concerned her, saying the data the board has received over the past several years didn't give an adequate picture of what was coming.

"The concern is that demographics drive everything, how many teachers we need, the curriculum we have," she said. "Maybe we have to be humble enough that if we don't possess those strengths and do it well then we need to look [elsewhere]. I'm going to be very much encouraging us to improve our ability to budget based on our ability to predict who we're going to have going forward."

Dale noted the system brought on a full-time demographer within the past two years.

Greenburg said he was happy to see Dale's proposal addressed teacher workload and tuition reimbursement, among the improvements to compensation, after

"I just hope that all of the entities around him he's counting on to support it, i.e. the state, the supervisors, will come in behind him," Greenburg said.

He asked the school board Thursday night to consider hiring a full-time staff member for each of the board's 12 representatives. That would allow staff members to strengthen their own budget weaknesses and spend more time engaging with stakeholders, both during budget season and throughout the year, he said.

On a night in which the board also appointed its members as liaisons to federal, state and local groups and commissions,  with the county's two major teachers unions, "as a model for not just now in the future, to have that regular communication."

Will Radle January 18, 2012 at 09:12 PM
I would be happy to show you, if we knew you. Facts are clear. Freeze salaries and increase health care premiums: take home pay is reduced. Ask any teacher or first responder. I am happy to answer your questions and tolerate the unnecessary insults. It's almost laughable you think I am irresponsible. Have you checked out my opponent? Respectfully, A. Will Radle, Jr. Creating a Culture of Listening Candidate for VA8 Democratic Nomination
Will Radle January 18, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Teachers and first responders who reside in Fairfax County along with most families in our community have been burned on both ends by shrinking take home pay and increasing real estate taxes.
What? January 19, 2012 at 02:12 PM
First of all, I didn't call you irresponsible. Read what I said again. I also never said I disagreed with your position, but I would like a measure of the magnitude of your statements. If increased health care premiums are what you are referring to for the reductions in pay, that's not just a local problem. You can also say teachers have less money because gas prices are high. In 2012 for family premiums, if you choose the costliest health benefit the county provides for its employees, the monthly premium went up 10% or $39 a month for employee cost. For someone making $40K, that's a difference of 1.1% of gross pay and is taken out pre tax. The county contribution also increased 10% or $117 a month because what the company (Cigna) charges went up 10%. Two other options went up 5% ($18 or $16/month), and one option is now 15% cheaper than 2011. If the county had reduced the amount of their contribution to the benefits, that would be a concern. Also, 11,000 Fairfax employees were given a 2% MRA to salaries at the end of 2011 and I believe the teachers got 3.5% last year, but am not completely sure. This is what I meant in my original post. Anecdotal statements are all well and good, but you should provide measurable facts to illustrate your point.
GJ January 19, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I enjoy the banter here between "What?" and "Will." If I may, and I'm not being critical of either of you, now might be a good time for me to express one thing that aggravates me. Unsubstantiated statements made by elected officials and those seeking to be elected aggravates me. I believe this is along the lines of what What? is saying. So I agree that we should ask people for references to their facts. Almost everything is published somewhere today and most often available at the click of a link, so it's often very easy to post factual references. What? said, "Really? I'd like to see your evidence for these statements, especially the pay cuts. It's irresponsible to make claims such as these that have no basis in fact." Fair enough requirement I'd say. I'm also one who enjoys collaboration because I learn through interaction with others. There's a big difference between bantering over ideas and stating facts. And one final point. I'm disturbed when politicians (of any party), especially those vying for office, say things like, "I'll create jobs" or "I'll bring economic prosperity" or "I'll reduce the debt by $xx in X number of years." The desire to do these things is noble, but the truth is that all of these are complicated issues with many, many moving parts that most people really don't understand, including those running for office and many already serving. So, it's important that we measure our words with truth and back them up with facts. I applaud you both.
Will Radle January 19, 2012 at 06:07 PM
We need commonsense. Increased prices, for example, gasoline represent increased expenses, not reduced take home pay. Note, I wrote "reduced take home pay". I never wrote "pay cuts". However, we have seen significant inflation in the costs of basic necessities. For example, many food companies have shrunk packaging significantly while maintaining the same price for goods. This means teachers and first responders confront the compounded challenges of reduced take home pay and increased living expenses in Fairfax County. May I point out that none of the 3 other candidates ever disputed the fact we reduced the take home pay of school and general county employees? I feel like you may perhaps be demanding more in this casual conversation than my opponents demanded in public debates. Interesting. Thank you for your passion in acquiring the information you seek. Perhaps, you can research the budget, consult with public employees and interview elected officials. At the end of your exhaustive research, you will find the take home pay of teachers and school employees as well as first responders and general county employees have been reduced in Fairfax County as I wrote. Separately, exact outcome measurements for "Solutions for an Enduring Nation: Restoring Confidence in America's Future", will be presented in a different forum. Perhaps, you will also demand Mr. Moran come as far as I have already by focusing on solutions and publishing a written plan for action.
What? January 19, 2012 at 07:41 PM
First, I did not demand anything. I simply asked for facts, which you still do not provide while suggesting I go on an exhaustive search for more anecdotal information to back up the claim you are making, not me. I have made no claims, demands, or anything else you might be reading into my comments. I do not support any candidate in your district, and honestly, I don't even know if I would be part of your constituancy. I have no dog in this fight, for or against you, Mr. Radle. I merely read the article and comments, wondered about the basis of your statements, and was curious about the underlying data that would support your position. I believe GJ voiced some of the frustration I have with our current political climate. It seems that most discussions revolve around what is felt or perceived, which may or may not match reality. I gave you hard numbers on what I've seen occur with general county employees with respect to salaries and health benefits in the past year, but that doesn't matter. I’m supposed to accept your statement without proof, or go dig up the proof on my own? If there are reasons other than the ones I pointed out for the reduction in take home pay, they should be explained and the magnitude of the reductions should be discussed. Making the statement without supporting data doesn’t make it true or false. It makes the statement hollow. <continued in next post>
What? January 19, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Again, Mr. Radle, I have no beef with you, wish you all the best in your pursuit of public office, and admire your passion. But, please, if you are going to make statements about what you believe to be true, back them up with measurable, tangible data. You can’t just say something and expect it to be accepted based on your word alone.
Will Radle January 19, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I participate actively in online public forums to help maximize access so people can present questions and constructive criticism in a public light. What I say to persons with low, middle or high incomes, whether they are conservative, moderate or liberal is readily accessible and remains consistent. Participation is encouraged and welcomed. Sometimes, we get in the minutia. Look, we have exhausted the topic of questioning my comment about reducing take home pay of public employees. You both indicated you do not disagree. I have proven the correctness of my statement. You just don't seem to like the accuracy of my statement and want to know how many pennies and how many dollars. That minute level of detail will vary with each employee. The comment section on Patch is not intended to serve as an exhaustive outlet. I appreciate your participation. Respectfully, I encourage both of you, if you have not already, to also leave your computers and go into the real world of PTA and School Board meetings. Visit a local firehouse or police station. I expect you will find your participation and visits welcome. Discounting anecdotes when you're discussing the frozen salaries of thousands of people in our community is peculiar. These are real people. Go talk with them. Ask them what frozen salaries with increasing gas prices and food costs means to them and their families. Thank you.
What? January 19, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Sigh
elizabeth January 20, 2012 at 01:54 AM
The comments by certain SB members seem absurd. An 8% increase is pie in the sky. Teachers admittedly have too much on their plates but to expect a large increase in compensation during difficult econmic times with class size higher than it was in 2007 and other needs is plain pandering to the general public. The BOS has cut services in the past years. Since it is not an election year look for increases in personal property taxes.
Will Radle January 20, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Elizabeth, can you identify the School Board members who advocate increasing compensation for teachers by 8 percent? Thank you.
elizabeth January 20, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Those who want to compensate teachers more or give a substantial increases include Patty Reed, Elizabeth Schultz, Megan McLauglin, Sandy Evans. In MHO these members live in an unreal world where fantasy is real for them and hard decisions can't be made because they have single agendas. These 4 appear closely aligned with Steve Greenburg, who is the spokeperson for one of the teacher's associations. I believe he campaigned for them during the election. This is called "pay out" for being elected.
Jonathan Erickson January 20, 2012 at 02:57 PM
You go Elizabeth. Thanks for the names. I see Seattle has full day kindergarden as a option. If you choose the full day the parent pays approximately $240.00 a month. That works for me!
Kathy Keith January 20, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I'm a little puzzled by Elizabeth's response. As far as Elizabeth Schultz, she is far from a one issue person. I think that most people who run for SB (with the exception of those intereseted in a political career) become interested because of a single issue--but then the more they learn about the SB and staff, the more disturbed they become about many issues. Anyone who has watched the SB over the last few years, should be disturbed about many issues. Personally, I disagree about a lot of the SLEEP concerns. However, I think Sandy Evans has displayed an interest in far more than SLEEP. I don't agree with all her votes, but I think most of them have been responsible. I agree with most votes that Patty Reed has cast--and I am puzzled as to what you think her "single issue" is. I don't know enough about McLaughlin to form an opinion, although I would like to know what the committee votes was about. Watching the last meeting, it is clear that the Old Guard is disturbed with some of the new people. The committee assignments were quite interesting. I would love to know the back story on that.
Jonathan Erickson January 20, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Not really related to the above butt why is it the fee for a permit for election signs is only 10 dollars. How about waving the permit fee and charge $1.00 per sign. Needs a Loudoun County stamp or it's illegal signage. It would pay for the clean up of signs in Loudoun and provide revenue hopefully for other projects.
Will Radle January 20, 2012 at 04:10 PM
The following summary is from Kristen Michael, the Director of Budget for Fairfax County Public Schools. Inserted brackets reflect minor editing for enhanced background and readability. "On January 12, Superintendent Jack D. Dale presented to the School Board a $2.4 billion FY 2013 Proposed Budget with a projected enrollment of 181,608 students. This proposed budget reflects a 9% increase in the Transfer Fee from the County, which last fall suggested a 5% increase after 3 yrs of decline against increased enrollment costs [ZERO INCREASE LAST 3 YEARS]. The proposed budget includes an additional 721.3 positions to support changes in student demographics and projected enrollment growth of 3,900 students as well as market scale adjustments and step increases for all eligible employees. If [a person] measures just the increase in student enrollment in FCPS the past 5 years as a separate school system, it would rank the 6th largest in the state of VA. [THIS IS TRUE, YET LESS FUNDING TODAY]If a state, this same increase in numbers would equate to a state school system at # 42 in the nation … larger than 8 other present states total enrollments in public schools." FCPS serves a larger number of students with less funding. The number of students is significantly higher and includes a higher percentage with special needs. I question Elizabeth's implied assertion that SB members plan to provide an 8 percent increase in pay for teachers. I hope this helps.
Will Radle January 20, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Jonathan, we who live in Fairfax County cannot do anything to help address your concerns for political signs and fee structures in Loudoun County. I did not want you to feel like we were ignoring your concerns. It's just we cannot do anything about the situation in Loudoun County. Thanks for understanding.
Kathy Keith January 20, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Be sure and listen to Jack Dale's presentation with the budget slideshow. He says 721 slots to accomodate the growth in population--then a slide or two later he mentions that 675 (?not sure exact number) will be instructional slots--and the rest will go towards "maintenance". I found that puzzling. 50 additional maintenance slots? At 721, that is one slot for every 5 new students. I guess I just don't understand Dale's math.
elizabeth January 20, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Mr.Radle and others, I thought you were implying a raise of 8% to teachers. Sorry for my confusion, my comments were meant to stress that I do not believe an 8% raise in the county transfer to FCPS is realistic given BOS concerns. Furthermore I do believe those School Board members mentioned have demonstrated lip service about certain issues but have little else to show. They must reach consensus and realize it is not about "them" but about making a differnece and doing something. Ms Schultz and others have yet to show any meaningful outcomes from their words.
Jonathan Erickson January 20, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Thanks and sorry Mr. Radle I had the wrong patch for my comment.
Kathy Keith January 20, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Ms. Schultz has been on the SB for ONE regular meeting. At this meeting, she made a very good point about the population/demographic predictions of the past in FCPS-bascially, that the predictions had not been good and that, perhaps, FCPS should get expert help. Jack Dale responded that he had hired someone two years ago--the same person, I guess, who left an entire zipcode out of projections for Clifton.
Louise Epstein January 20, 2012 at 09:09 PM
I also watched Elizabeth Schultz during the School Board forum discussion on January 12th, which is not televised. She spoke articulately about opening the FCPS budget dialogues to more people and in favor of offering the 5 English and social studies honors courses (English 11, English 12, World History 2, US HIstory, and Government) starting in Fall 2012. It's too bad the School Board forums aren't televised, as an aside. The discussion at that forum was much more illuminating than the discussions that are typical at the televised public meetings.
Will Radle January 20, 2012 at 09:58 PM
We lack political leadership to make the investment in education. That's why I said, "Bulova is doing what we expect. In the past 4 years she cut education funding, increased students per teacher, and reduced take home pay of teachers and school employees, as well as first responders and general county employees."
janet otersen January 20, 2012 at 10:02 PM
1. Fairfax County is not this protected bubble we think it is. Look beyond our borders. The federal gov't has a 16 trillion dollar debt hole. This means less money going to states and eventually higher taxes for everyone. VA budget will suffer as a result. 2. We cannot expect taxpayers to fund a budget that is 8-9% higher--it is absurd. Look at the largest request by Dale---46 million smackers for a potential increase in enrollment of 3979 kids. That is $11,485 per kid. Look at Montgomery County's projections: 2250 more students and they are asking for only $14.1 million to pay for the increased enrollment. Why is FCPS TWICE AS MUCH???? There, I just knocked out $20 million that we don't need. 3. Why is Dale looking to increase the number of asst principals by 16? We need one for Lacey Elem-new school-but why do we need the other 15?? There. I just saved us another $2 million bucks. The money is being treated like its monopoly money. We should be justifying each and every expenditure, not figuring out how to blow another $200 million. 4. Why are we hiring a Teacher in residence from the Air and Space Museum, when what we need are more social workers and school psychologists? We are expecting 4000 more kids and aren't adding any of these positions. 5. The doozey. Why, oh why, is Dale giving himself and his staff a 4.7% raise?
elizabeth January 20, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Ms. Keith, Your statement suggests you are from Clifton ---single agenda. Ms. Schultz ignorance on the CIP and validity of the data was telling. The issue is complex and takes more than a discussion about Clifton. Projections are based upon many factors, one being the kindergarten enrollment and extrapilating that data into the future. Other issues pertaining to data accuracy that must be reviewed and understood are school capacities vs. enrollment, trends in demographics, programming (to include special ed capacity needs), AAP centers, etc. The demographer was brought on as a result of issues in the past. Previously the school system used the county's demographer. Projection accuracies are in the high 98th percentile. This information is an easy glance at the CIP data ---look in the column of projection accuracies. Ms. Schultz should have reviewed all this before speaking. Projections are accurate to the extent they can be due to the transitory nature of this area and the economy which certainly impacts student enrollment. She is suggesting $ for an outside consultant, some would argue that money would be better served for students and teachers.
janet otersen January 20, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Projection accuracies are in the high 98th percentile Oh really?????? Let's see: Press release 1/8/2009: Dale releases proposed 2010 budget projecting 5000 new students. Enrollment 9/30/2009: increase of 3225 kids. Off by 35% Press release 1/7/2010: Dale releases 2011 budget projecting 1760 new students. Enrollment: 9/30/2010: increase of 2523 students. Off by 43% Press release 1/6/2011: Dale releases 2012 budget projecting 2120 new students. Enrollment: 9/30/2011: increase of 2856 students. Off by 35%
Kathy Keith January 20, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Elizabeth, Not from anywhere near Clifton. I developed an interest in SB activities after a different redistricting. I have read the emails regarding Clifton and realize that the demographer did leave out a zip. I am also aware that FCPS has done a terrible job on projections--not factoring in huge new apartment complexes to various elementary schools, etc. An outside consultant could be much cheaper than a demographer who makes serious omissions in planning. You think I'm from Clifton--your name and your comments indicate that you may have a very personal connection to the school board issues.
T-Bird January 20, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Will, really? That's pretty funny, because I AM a county employee and as far as I know, my pay has not been cut. As for the union backed teachers, they got a nice raise last year and I believe COLA adjustments when I didn't. My pay HAS remained the same for 3 years now. And my health insurance premium has actually gone down $5 becuase I opted out of Cigna. As "What?" said, you have no evidence to the half baked statements you are making, becuase, well, they're just not true, are they. And, by the way, that is your response to a question?? You, who wants to be an elected public official?? Calling people names and saying that you would share the information "if I knew you"??? Wow. What the hell does that even mean? Buddy, I'm going to make it my lifes mission to make sure you never hold elected office in a place I live.
elizabeth January 20, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Read the CIP and look at the rates of accuracy. Ms Otersen I do not belive you are comparing apples to apples and question your accuracy. As for Ms. Keith's comments I have no personal issues with any FCPS issues, just speaking from a professional perspective as someone involved with market reserach.
janet otersen January 20, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Read the CIP and look at the rates of accuracy. How about you take a nice drive to look at the the new SOCO MS we "had" to build for $millions because those super accurate folks in the CIP area crammed too many kids into SOCO Secondary. If they had kept the kids at Lee and Hayfield before they opened the school-SOCO wouldn't have needed 15 trailers and then a middle school. Run the numbers on the cost of portable classrooms and relocating them while you're at it. How about you check your numbers for accuracy.

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