A Tough Budget Year Looming…
First the positive: thank you to all of our parents who joined teachers on Nov. 12 for our Touching Base activity. Teachers were busy sharing information during most of the morning thru five-minute conferences with parents. Now for the harder news: we are in the perfect storm of budget preparation times – increasing county student enrollment (1100+ projected), increasing employee benefit costs, and increasing fuel costs to run our buses and heat/cool our schools. With these increasing demands is the reality that lower property tax revenues, which make up 75 percent of our school system budget, are leading the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to say that the transfer of county funds to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will remain at last year’s funding level, meaning NO increase in the transfer amount. To assist with next year’s budget, fifteen percent of this school year’s local school instructional funds (not salaries) has been held from distribution to schools, thus, principals now, are becoming much more conservative in approving local purchase orders for the remainder of this school year.
School principals have been working with Dr. Dale to make recommendations as have FCPS assistant superintendents. Our reality now is that as of Nov. 12, FCPS is projecting a $98.78 million deficit for the next school year. Thus, programmatic cuts and reductions are being discussed. The superintendent’s recommendation includes many programs that are popular, that support underachievers, and some that we have become accustomed to as we have strived for a world-class school system. Two themes have emerged in the budget discussions I have been a part of: one is to not balance the budget on the backs of our employees as was done in the early nineties when we had a economic recession; the other is to protect, as much as possible, the classroom.
I urge staff and parents to stay informed of the budget discussions. Nothing is final until the school board votes early next spring on the proposed budget. The final budget will be painful no matter which programs are targeted. The silver lining of all this is that a big bureaucracy, such as FCPS, is forced to really examine efficiencies and the cost/benefit of doing business in the educational world.
No matter what the reductions are, we will do our best here at Hayfield Secondary to make our school an excellent place to work and learn.
Dr. Bill Oehrlein