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Fairfax County Board, Schools Set Special Meeting Next Week

A special joint meeting next week of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the county’s School Board was being pulled together as the News-Press went to press last night, the result of growing concerns of an apparent lack of effective communication between the two bodies.

UPDATE: The planned special joint meeting of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the county’s School Board, set for early next week, has been postponed until after the School Board completes its budget for the new fiscal year, County Board Chair Sharon Bulova announced this afternoon. Bulova sent an e-mail to all relevant parties late this afternoon indicating the postponement. The County Board voted unanimously to urge the School Board to remove all fees associated with test-taking and athletics in the county schools, which is on the table for the joint meeting. However, that meeting apparently is not going to happen now until the School Board finalizes its plans for its FY2011 budget.


A special joint meeting next week of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the county’s School Board was being pulled together as the News-Press went to press last night, the result of growing concerns of an apparent lack of effective communication between the two bodies.

Evidence of the problem surfaced at the county board meeting last week when the final marking up in advance of this Tuesday’s vote on the county tax rate of $1.09 for Fiscal Year 2011 was taken.

While the board vote on the budget was 7-3 in favor, it was unanimous for the “guidelines” that accompanied the budget, and those guidelines included a request from the board for the School Board to “reconsider” its decision to apply fees for students taking Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, and to participate on sports teams.

With additional dollars coming from the state to local school districts in the region, the county board expressed its desire to have the School Board eliminate the fees, much out of concern that they would reduce student participation, especially among those from lower income households.

The School Board had adopted a budget requiring a $75 fee for every AP and IB test taken, and a $100 fee for every sport a student signs up for. It was noted that the majority of student-athletes go out for more than one sport in a school year, and that paying $300 for three sports would be prohibitive for many lower income homes.

“Unknown at present is the effect that the School Board’s proposed testing and athletic fees might have on youth participation in both academic and sports pursuits, and the budget guidelines include a request that the School Board reconsider implementation of both fees, which may be detrimental especially to lower income students and their families,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross wrote in her column in the News-Press last week.

She also noted the “vigorous discussion” about School Superindent Jack Dale’s proposed cuts to the EXCEL, FOCUS and Title 1 programs at the “most challenged schools across the county.”

Gross told the News-Press she was most gratified in the difficult budgeting process this spring that funds became available to restore the school resource police officers in the county’s middle schools. “They’re vital for both safety and to generate positive relationship between the police and students,” she said.
The newly-adopted tax rate of $1.09 represents a five-cent increase above this year’s $1.04 rate. There was also a slight increase in the storm water services fee from $0.01 to $100 of assessed valuation to $0.15. But despite the rate increases, due to declines in residential real estate values, the net result for the average household in the county is a $26.93 decline in the tax bill.

There is also an increase of $0.77 per 1,000 gallons in the sewer service charge fee, and the board re-established a Vehicle Registration License fee of $33 for most vehicles.

The net size of the county budget for FY11 is $3.31 billion, a decrease of $92.2 million, or 2.71 percent, compared to the FY10 revised budget.

The county’s total transfer to the schools totaled $1.77 billion, a one percent decrease from this year’s level and 53.5 percent of the total county budget.

The county board added back into its final budget $11.4 million of the total $103.3 million in cuts that County Executive Anthony Griffin originally recommended for the FY11 budget in February. Those restored funds went to human services and public safety programs, including for adding back 38 positions for the police department (26 for the School Resource Officer Program), 28 positions for the Fire and Rescue Department, 11 for the public libraries (to maintain Tuesday evening hours at all eight regional libraries), 16 for the park authority, including 12 for grounds maintenance positions, and nine positions for human services.

Still, there was a net reduction of 176 positions in the county government in the budget.

Given the Richmond decision to fully fund the Local Composite Index (LCI) formula, the School Board enjoyed added funds that enable it to restore programs such as band and music, and language immersion. It gives the School Board the means to also remove the fees from the testing and sports programs, if it choses to do so.

County Board Chair Sharon Bulova, in a statement on the budget issued last week, reminded citizens that of the “worst economic breakdown in most of our lifetimes” was the principal cause for the current budget squeeze. It brought on declines in residential real estate values of six percent and commercial property values of over 18 percent, as well as prospects of steep declines in the capacity of the state to support local programs.

 

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