Hunter Mill Newsletter from School Board Member Pat Hynes

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Hunter Mill District Newsletter

Contact Pat:


Melanie Turpin
Executive Admin Assistant


FY 2017 Budget Update

This is the first time I have sent two newsletters in one month, but the volume of email I’ve received from constituents about the FY 2017 budget demands a timely response. Hundreds of Hunter Mill residents have contacted me, overwhelmingly in support of full funding of the FCPS FY 2017 Advertised Budget. Here is a brief update:

On February 4, the School Board approved the Superintendent’s proposed budget by a vote of 9 to 3. That budget calls for pay increases for all employees, with a special focus on the teacher salary scale, makes a modest investment in reducing elementary class sizes, and holds the line on cuts to educational programs. If we see no increase in state funding for FCPS (we will know more about state funding in March), fully funding the FCPS Advertised Budget will require a 6.7% increase in the transfer from the County Board of Supervisors.


The proposed FCPS budget is an austere approach.  There are many items that are desperately needed and not included. For example, the FCPS advertised budget does not get our teacher pay even to market average, does not include funding for student technology, and lacks investments in our maintenance needs for schools and replacement of aging buses.


On February 16, County Executive Ed Long presented his budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors. The County Executive’s budget fully funds the needs that he has identified in county programs and services, but provides for a disappointing 3% increase in the transfer to the schools. If the Board of Supervisors adopts that budget, there will be a $68 million shortfall for the school system. Meeting that shortfall will mean choosing between teacher pay, elementary class size, and educational opportunities for our children.


The County Executive’s budget also contemplates a 3 or 4-cent increase in the property tax. Unfortunately, counties in Virginia are overly reliant on real property taxes to fund local needs. That 3 or 4-cent increase would fully fund what the County Executive has identified as needs in county services and programs, but would leave a $55-to-68 million shortfall for the schools.  The Board of Supervisors controls that decision.


On March 1, the Board of Supervisors will set the “advertised tax rate” for FY 2017. The advertised tax rate is the maximum amount by which they can raise the property tax rate this year. Because the first public hearings on the county’s FY 2017 budget are not until April, community engagement in the revenue decision can only happen if the advertised tax rate is set high enough on March 1 so that full funding of the FCPS request is at least possible. The Supervisors can always choose a lower-than-advertised tax rate after community engagement.


The cost to taxpayers must be taken into account, of course. A budget is, fundamentally, a statement of values and priorities: what Fairfax County residents expect from their public services and what they are willing to pay for. According to the County Executive’s budget, each penny increase in the property tax rate brings in $23 million to the county, and costs the average homeowner $53. So, for example, a 7-cent increase in the tax rate would bring in an additional $161 million (enough to fund the county and schools budgets) and would cost the average homeowner $371 (roughly a dollar a day).


I have been so impressed by the hard work and sacrifice of the many, many advocates who are engaged in the budget conversation this year. You are busy people, taking time to learn a complex budget and the even more complex politics of school funding in Virginia. You have studied the results of the Superintendent’s budget task force, becoming familiar with how funds are spent and asking your own questions about efficiency and stewardship. I have heard most of you come to the same conclusions: the fiscal challenge for the schools is real, it’s largely a revenue problem, and the community must participate meaningfully in the revenue conversation.


Advocates I talk to also understand that the way schools are funded in Virginia is unfair and unsustainable. State spending on k-12 education has decreased by $1 billion since 2008, leaving local jurisdictions with an increasingly unfair share of the responsibility. State law gives greater flexibility to cities and towns than to counties over local sources of revenue, requiring homeowners in counties to pay a larger share than in neighboring communities. State formulas for allocating school funds rely on criteria of local wealth that haven’t changed since the 1970s, ignoring the increasing urbanization of counties like Fairfax. Our Fairfax County delegation is aware of our needs and works diligently in collaboration with school boards and local governments to make changes in the General Assembly, but change comes to Richmond very slowly.


I hope advocates will stay engaged. Your voice is critical, now and in the coming months and years. This great school system belongs to all of us and benefits all of us. It is up to all of us to decide its future.


For more information about how to stay engaged, check the FCPS website budget page.


Thank you! Please keep in touch!


Pat Hynes