After months of debate on how to fairly compensate Fairfax teachers and keep pace with salaries in other jurisdictions , the Fairfax County School board voted for a $2.5 billion budget Thursday that will give employees a 2 percent mid-year market-scale adjustment — making good on a commitment from school board members to provide some sort of compensation relief during this fiscal year.
Much of the Fiscal Year 2014 spending plan, which passed on an 8-4 vote, is dedicated to changing demographics and unprecedented student growth — 3,089 students are expected to join the system next year, pushing total enrollment to 184,625.
To view the full budget, click here.
The pay raise was the biggest hurdle in this year's budget, school board members said Thursday night as they debated several salary options.
The school system received $61.7 million less than it had asked for in its annual transfer from the county ; county officials, who could not provide a pay increase to county employees this year,
The two percent pay increase allows the system to take advantage of $6.3 million in state incentive funding. That money that would not have been available for other salary options put forward by school board members Thursday night — including the creation of an employee compensation reserve, a set of two 1 percent market scale adjustments or forging ahead with step increases next April.
The raise, paid out to employees in January 2014, will mean an additional $740 for an employee making $60,000, schools officials said. After accounting for a mandated 3 percent increase in employee contributions to the Virginia Retirement System shift, that employee will see $330 more in take-home pay.
Some board members said the option was more expensive and perpetuating a "structural imbalance" with the salary system.
Per their contracts, teachers should receive step increases every year, but the board has only been able to provide one in the last five, during Fiscal Year 2012, Kathy Smith (Sully) said. In budget public hearings this spring, one teacher said she and her husband, also employed by FCPS, had lost $14,000 from what was promised in their contracts in that time.
A step increase next April, proposed by Ryan McElveen (At-large), would have added $1,326 to the base pay of a teacher earning $60,000 over the course of the next two years, after accounting for the VRS shift.
"We cannot wait another year, our employees cannot wait another year, our structural imbalance cannot wait another year," McElveen said in support of his proposal. "Because next year we will be where we are right now scraping pennies at the bottom of the barrel."
The majority of board members voted against McElveen’s proposal, saying they didn’t want to leave state money on the table.
The board did approve a follow-on motion by Dan Storck (Mount Vernon) that directs new superintendent Karen Garza to fund compensation increases in the fiscal year 2015 budget, with a preference for step increases.
Storck introduced a similar motion in 2010 for fiscal year 2012 — the last time the board successfully approved a step increase.
The motion left Fairfax County Federation of Teachers president Steve Greenburg optimistic about future compensation adjustments, but said "it will require public attention for the need to fund our schools more adequately."
"It won't be easy," Storck said. "It's going to take a clear effort on our part to dig into the budget and make some hard decisions."
Other items approved as part of the spending plan include:
- $21.7 million to address student membership growth and changes in student demographics
$1.4 million to fund five psychologist and nine social work positions
$0.5 million to increase support for advanced academics and Young Scholars by $0.5 million
$0.4 million to expand Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) to three additional schools
$1.6 million in grants and Priority Schools Initiative funding to expand FECEP (Family and Early Childhood Education Program) to 100 additional students
$1.6 million in increased funding for preventive maintenance
How they voted:
Yes: Tamara Derenak Kaufax, Patty Reed, Megan McLaughlin, Dan Storck, Pat Hynes, Ilryong Moon, Jane Strauss, Sandra Evans
No: Ryan McElveen, Elizabeth Schultz, Theodore Velkoff, Kathy Smith