Fairfax school board approves Karen Garza’s budget proposal


File: Fairfax Suoperintendent Karen Garza (Donnie Biggs/Fairfax County Public Schools)

The Fairfax County School Board on Thursday night unanimously approved new Schools Superintendent Karen Garza’s proposed $2.5 billion budget for next year.

Ted Velkoff (At Large), the school board budget chair, said that Garza, who joined the school system in July, had brought with her a new way of developing the budget, noting that she met with local civic leaders and others in the county while drafting her proposal.

In doing so, Velkoff said, Garza sought to “reestablish trust with all members of the community.”

Garza’s proposal includes $96 million in cuts, including the elimination of about 730 staff positions and an increase in class sizes. She also calls on the county board of supervisors for an additional $97 million in funding. Garza’s request is equal to a 5.7 percent increase in the transfer of county funds compared to last year’s approved budget. More than half of the county’s funding goes to the schools.

On March 4, the supervisors will discuss next year’s advertised tax rate, which will set the top limit of what the county may levy on property owners. It will also determine how much funding the schools may receive, since the majority of the schools’ budget comes from local tax dollars.

School Board Vice Chair Tammy Derenak Kaufax (Lee) said that the schools administration must receive its full request.

“The sky really truly is falling, and people need to recognize we’re very serious here,” Derenak Kaufax said. “There comes a time when you can’t be everything to everybody. If they want to have those kinds of services, then the bill has come due.”

School board member Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) said that in the last seven years, the supervisors had only once approved a transfer increase above 3 percent. This year, the supervisors have advised the schools to expect a 2 percent increase.

Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) said that she voted for Garza’s budget hesitantly, noting that the final budget may look different from what the board approved Thursday.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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