Eliminating the equivalent of eight full-time administrative positions, the deepest cut ever for the Falls Church City School System, the F.C. School Board approved a budget Tuesday night that seeks a 3.7% increase in the City’s monetary transfer.
While the budget did not achieve the no-growth goal in this tough fiscal year, it did shave an additional $600,000 off the budget recommended by Superintendent Lois Berlin last month.
The small growth “is the lowest it has been in ages,” said School Board Chair Craig Cheney. “On an inflation-adjusted basis, it’s basically zero, which is the lowest we could go and continue operating with the same class sizes that we have now.”
Enrollment growth, stronger than expected this year and anticipated to continue next fall, and competitive pressures from surrounding jurisdictions to retain and hire quality educators pushed the modest increase.
But the system has never before slashed so many jobs, although none were in the classroom, and class sizes will remain unchanged.
The $40.2 million budget reflects the priorities of the School Board’s strategic plan, Cheney said. As such, it includes “teacher retention, data-driven instruction, responsive guidance and counseling programs, and instructional programs to meet the needs of all students,” according to a School Board statement.
The budget includes a 3% pay raise for all eligible employees to ensure the system remains competitive with its neighbors.
In addition, it redirects existing resources to support implementation of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program in the system’s two elementary schools.
The program “will cover every elementary student in our system,” Cheney said. “It provides them all with the kinds of things that the strategic plan talks about, including more of an international focus.”
“I think it’s quite an accomplishment to introduce this program during a year when we don’t have any additional resources,” he said.
The School Board budget will now go to the City Council, which will have until the end of April to determine if it will fund it fully, or need to make a cut. Next month, the Council will receive the data of projected revenue for the next fiscal year, based on a completion of real estate assessments, and City Manager Wyatt Shields’ recommendations for the overall City and Schools operating budgets.