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F.C. Schools’ Noonan Lays Out Steep Budget Shortfalls, No Layoffs

BECOMING A FAMILIAR sight, members of the Falls Church School Board and administrative staff gathered online for their meeting Tuesday night. (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church City Public Schools’ Superintendent Peter Noonan walked the School Board, meeting in a virtual online format Tuesday night, through stiff budget cuts both for the current and coming fiscal years due to the impact of combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

As revenue to the City is bottoming out in the crisis, due mostly to losses in sales and personal property taxes since Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s March 13 stay at home order closed most businesses, Noonan and Schools’ financial chief Kristen Michael told the School Board to expect a severe drop in revenue for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020 through June 30. They warned of an initially estimated $2,402,750 drop below the budget level established by the Board in February for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2021.      

“We have gone from what I saw as one of the most promising school budgets ever to one where we must scramble to avoid any cuts in personnel, though no step or cost of living raises will be forthcoming,” he said. Still, the City is fortunate compared to surrounding jurisdictions insofar as its reliance on business and sales taxes is relatively lower compared to real estate tax revenues, and that combined with a use of two thirds of the system’s fund balance reserve may see the system through without layoffs or structural changes such as a increase in class sizes.     

So, Noonan went on to say that the combination of circumstances, even though the City schools will get the lowest amount in federal relief funds of any system in the state due to the City’s relative lack of poverty cases, are “lucky for us,” and “We’re in as good a situation as we can be right now.”