Survey: Fairfax schools workers disprove of supervisors’ handling of budget woes

More than half of the respondents in a survey polling Fairfax schools employees said that the county’s supervisors should be removed from their jobs for failing to fully fund public education.

In a wide-ranging survey by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, respondents showed signs of frustration on questions related to the school’s $2.5 billion budget. The school system faces a projected $132 million deficit next year due to rising health insurance costs and growth in student enrollment, which is expected to crest 190,000 students in the next five years.

About 58 percent of the survey’s 1,428 respondents said that the supervisors should give more money to the schools system. More than half of the county’s income — mostly from real estate taxes — goes to public education. Only 17 percent of respondents said that the school board should be able to tax residents — powers currently maintained by the supervisors — and 18 percent said that the county should levy a new meals tax to benefit the schools.

Superintendent Karen Garza has said that she will propose salary increases for employees in next year’s budget as the administration lags behind neighboring districts in compensation.

“Employee compensation is a division wide priority,” Garza said Tuesday at a joint meeting of the supervisors and school board to discuss the budget. “We’re concerned about keeping the best in our classrooms.”

In the survey, about 42 percent of respondents said that if they did not receive a significant raise next year, they would continue working in Fairfax. But a quarter said they would likely take a second or third job to pay bills.

Respondents also noted concern about a movement to push back start times in high schools to allow students more time to sleep. School officials, advocating the change, have said that studies show that teenagers benefit physically, mentally and emotionally from additional shut-eye.

About 60 percent of the school employees said in the survey that they were concerned that the change could affect their daily commute, while 44 percent said that the new schedule could affect their own child-care arrangements.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.

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