News

School Budget Calls for 2.9 Percent Increase, Despite Council Guidance

Holding its second work session on Superintendent Peter Noonan’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget Tuesday, the Falls Church School Board was on the same wavelength with Noonan’s three primary focuses that he articulated when he first unveiled his recommendations, his first since coming on board as the City schools’ new superintendent late last spring.

He’s stressed the priorities of addressing the core needs of human capital in the system, as well as addressing the needs of every single student. To top it off, Noonan emphasized the need to have the best International Baccalaureate (IB) school division in the U.S. now that the Falls Church City Public schools are qualified for IB instruction at all grade levels.

The ways these priorities translate into the Superintendent’s proposed budget is with a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all staff of three percent, the addition of the equivalent of two half-time IB specialists at the two elementary schools (probably taking the form of one full-time position) and a cost-neutral English as a Second Language (ESOL) person working across the system, a psychologist with a focus on the middle and high school and a part-time math specialist counselor at the middle school.

“I am very excited that we will be able to minimize our budget growth to the smallest growth in a decade and still maintain excellent services,” Noonan told the News-Press in an interview yesterday.

So, the bottom line is that Noonan’s budget plan calls for a 2.9 percent increase, which is above the 2.0 percent guidance the City Council provided last month.

He said his request is justified by the current budget coming in with less than a 1.0 percent growth over the previous year, coupled with lost revenue from the state.

His budget is at a $51 million total, including a $42.230 transfer from the City, up from $41.040 last year.

The cost of the 3.0 percent COLA is $1.1 million that, he says, will help to keep the City schools’ “competitive edge” with surrounding jurisdictions.

Still, he added, his budget leaves a lot unfunded.

Over $1.4 million in budget requests from the principals of the City’s five schools is not included in the budget to keep it within range of City Council guidance, being mindful especially of the large financial challenges that the construction of a new high school and other City capital improvement projects now represent.

The School Board will have a public hearing on the budget on Feb. 13.

By the end of that meeting, it will adopt its own budget to forward to the City manager on Feb. 20.