Everything you need to know about using the new Budget Tool


Esther Kim

Superintendent Karen Garza holds a press conference on Sept. 23 with publication editors from high schools in FCPS.

Anjali Khanna and Esther Kim

The recent announcement by Fairfax County Public Schools regarding the 100 million dollar budget deficit for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year has achieved its desired effect: create a buzz amongst parents, teachers and faculty alike in hopes of finding a solution to the county’s monetary shortfall.

Rather than making the decisions to cut certain programs from the school system’s current tab of expenses alone, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is allowing the public to weigh in and provide their opinion on what is most valued and what programs could be sacrificed in order to balance the budget. With the implementation of the new budget tool, anyone living or working within Fairfax County can submit their proposed budget cuts for the next school year, including the programs they would choose to eliminate if they were in the county’s position.

With this video, we will show you how to access the new Budget Proposal Tool off of the Fairfax County main homepage, how to drag and drop your proposed budget cuts and how to submit your proposed solution to FCPS for consideration. As 8th period sits on the chopping block, Jefferson’s teacher contracts become at risk for reduction to 7.5 hours and the elimination of activities stipends, the way the 2016-2017 school year will run will likely depend on how the public reacts with the new tool. In other words, it’s up to students and teachers to clarify which aspects of Fairfax County must be protected at all costs.

On Sept. 23, the editors of tjTODAY attended a press conference organized by Superintendent Karen Garza for student publications in FCPS. Garza responds to questions regarding the budget cuts for next year and how the school board will be making the decisions.

tjTODAY: Right now, what we understand is that the county is considering cutting TJ teacher contracts to 7.5 hours a day, which means that although FCPS teachers on a whole will be given a pay raise, many of the teachers at TJ, who spend parts of their work day managing clubs and extracurricular activities will be facing an actual reduction in pay, especially if stipends for activities, for example, like orchestra and newspaper, are cut. My question to you was how can we ensure that these teachers can still maintain their salaries and afford to live in the northern Virginia area and work in Fairfax county?

Garza: I’ll tell you my opinion on this. We’ve been very careful on this process, with this process also being very transparent. As people suggest ideas or things that we need to look at as possibilities for reductions, we have not filtered which of those ideas should be represented in the document, because you can imagine the problems we would have if I said, ‘I will accept any idea I like and we will show it on the list. Any idea I don’t like will not be shown on the list.’ So, we are saying any idea, for transparency purposes, any idea that has been brought forward to us that we can actually quantify, we are showing it on the list.

Now, I’ve told the task force, and I’ve told the community in all the community meetings we’ve had, whatever recommendations we get we will seriously evaluate them. But I am going to bring a certain lens to the work that I am going to be doing, and that lens is whatever cuts I finally recommend on January 7th, will be those that I think, at least in my view, have the least appreciable effect on our system. And, I will tell you, we are very concerned about our teacher salaries and our employees, so that is not the first place I am going to go. Anything that affects any of our teachers and our employees and affects their revenue or money they have, their paycheck, I think that is demoralizing and I just don’t want to go there. Particularly since I know our employees are what make FCPS special. Certainly our students, but you know what it means to have a great teacher and a classroom or have a great principal at your school. The employees of FCPS, we’ve got to do better about them, but we’ve also got to have more revenue to help make sure that we are competitive with salaries.

So, knowing where we are, and how we stack up to surrounding jurisdictions, last place I am going to go to is saying let’s cut any salary increase of our employees to balance our budget. I don’t think that should be our starting point for our employees. So, I hope, given where I know that how we compare to others, I am hoping that we won’t cut either people’s extra stipends for different work that they do or that we have to cut their contract, because ultimately if we cut their contract we are cutting their pay, all at the same time when we could know that we can do better.

Throughout the week, the Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) will be organizing events that will allow the Jefferson community to voice their opinions on the potential options for cuts.

Monday, Sept. 28 Sandy Evans, the Mason District school board member, will be hosting a meeting with Kristen Michael, the FCPS Assistant Superintendent for financial services and Sarah Mattingly, the FCPS budget task force member, to respond to questions about the budget cuts. The meeting will be held from 7-9:00 p.m. in the Little Theater at Stuart High School.

Monday, Sept. 28 The McLean Citizens Organization is hosting an open and free conversation with Garza at the McLean Community Center from 7-9:00 p.m. The FCPS budget task force member Matt Haley will be present at the meeting. The meeting will provide time for questions.

Wednesday. Sept. 30 On Back to School night, the Jefferson PTSA will be organizing a general membership meeting from 6:15-6:45 p.m. in the auditorium, in which it will further explain the methods that the community can participate in to support the school. Principal Evan Glazer will also be presenting his “State of the School” address during the meeting.