Earlier this month, the Fairfax County School Board unanimously passed a resolution urging the federal government to avoid sequestration
In the resolution, available online here, the board declared that the automatic spending cuts would “disproportionately impact” Fairfax and its school system.
To get some perspective on the looming possibility of a fiscal crisis, I spoke to Susan Quinn, chief financial officer for Fairfax schools.
Quinn is a graduate of Colorado State University and a certified public accountant, and served as the school system comptroller before assuming her current role in 2008.
“Education overall will take a big impact” nationwide from the potential cuts, Quinn said.
But how much federal money would Fairfax County lose?
“About $6 million,” she told me.
That’s not a lot of money considering the school system’s entire budget is $2.4 billion. Federal aid accounts for about 1.7 percent of the schools budget, Quinn said.
While acknowledging that $6 million isn’t that much, Quinn said that every dollar counts, and that the loss of federal aid would mostly affect Title I programs.
“I think every cut to education is going to have an impact,” Quinn said.
In a statement, School Board Chairman Ilryong Moon (At Large) said that, “If enacted, these cuts would severely impact our ability to provide necessary services to our most vulnerable students — those from low-income families and those with disabilities.”
If sequestration does occur, the real problems for Fairfax schools would come from the diminished tax base. Quinn said that 70 percent of the school budget comes from taxes paid by county residents.
Quinn said that sequestration would likely send the economy into a tailspin, which would lower incomes for Fairfax families. Lower incomes, Quinn said, mean lower taxes — which means less money in the county’s coffers.
What would “affect us more negatively is if the local economy stumbles because of the fiscal cliff,” Quinn said. “That would have a much bigger negative impact than [the loss of] direct federal aid.”
Sequestration, “would really put the entire country back into the recession,” Quinn said. “So given all that, I do hope that Congress can come to some agreement.”