Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent unveils $2.67 billion proposed budget

The superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools has unveiled a budget with no proposed cuts to the school board Thursday night

Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza announced a $2.67 billion budget that will increase teachers' salaries, decreases classroom size and gives all employees across the school district a living wage raise.

This is the first time in seven years a budget has been proposed without cuts.

"I really see it as a crossroad," said Dr. Garza. "Which way are we going to go? Are we going to go the way where we decide after nine consecutive years of cuts that we've got to begin to restore and renew our system? Or are we going to go the path where we have to continue to make the cuts?

"We've seen thanks to our task force what that could look like and our community has expressed their feelings about this over these last six months pretty clearly that they do not want to continue these cuts."

The conversation leading up to the budget proposal focused on cutting extracurricular activities and sports for students. But now, the focus for protesters and the school's top boss is to get more money from the state and county to save programs and retain good teachers by offering them higher salaries. $40 million is slated in the budget to enhance teacher salaries.

Part of the reason the superintendent was able to propose a budget without cuts is due to slowing growth. Garza said there was no requirement to add additional funding for enrollment and that will save the district about $20 million.

Even so, there are still critics.

"I wish this would have been done last year Dr. Garza," said one person at the school board meeting at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church. "You know my feelings from last year. You should have asked for the whole thing last year. Election year, I don't use that as an excuse. Please get out of the politics and let electors do their business and you just fight for us parents and students and put a true budget up each year."

"Unfortunately, if they don't fund the budget, it looks like Dr. Garza will have to resort to some of the $50 to $75 million in cuts that our budget task force found during a very robust process this year," said Melanie Meren, chairperson of the organization I Am FCPS. "That would cut all sorts of things - everything from transportation, class size increases, freshman year sports, instrumental music, world languages - just really gut our schools."

Public hearings on the proposed budget will start on January 25.