Fairfax county school officials this week unveiled a $287 million budget for the school year 1977-78 which will require the county to pay $18.7 million more than it is now contributing toward the school system.
Supt. S. John Davis said the school budget, which is the first ever to be drawn up using a modified "zero-base" procedure, "could not sustain any significant reduction." Davis said that if the Board of Supervisors or the School Board do ask for cuts, he will recommend re-opening negotiations with the Fairfax Education Board which represents teachers and some administrative employees.
FEA president Edward A. Anderson said he was "bothered" by Davis' remarks since the FEA "has an agreement with the School Board that it will send a budget request to the Board of Supervisors which will provide for what is agreed on in the contract."
The school system's operating budget ($239 million) is the largest part of the new budget. Other items include $19.3 million for the debts on loans borrowed to build new schools; $12 million for the school lunch program; $12.9 million for the school construction fund and $2.6 million for the employee retirement fund.
Econimizing efforts and projected declining school enrollment should result in $4.4 million in savings in the operating budget for the next school year, school officials said. Fairfax schools are expected to lose 2,172 more students next year which would mean savings of $1.7 million and the elimination of 156 teaching positions.
Cost-cutting measures by school officials include the elimination of unsuccessful programs or ones for which federal aid will be terminated ($1.1 million); relaxation of requirements for replacement of school buses ($826,000); and the elimination of six positions in the adult education program ($94,000).
The savings, however, are offset by necessary increases in the school budget, the largest one being $11.3 million for a 5.4 per cent salary increase for most of the school system's employees.
Another $4.6 million will be needed to cover employee benefits such as unemployment compensation and health insurance premium payments which Blue Cross Blue Shireld announced will go up 60 per cnet next year, school officials said. This will mean an additional $2.5 million will have to be paid for the health insurance which already was upped 54 per cent this year, school authorities noted.
These personnel costs including salary increases and employee benefits will account for 87 per cent of next year's operating school budget, Davis said.
Utilities and fuel bills will demand an additional $471,400 over this year, because of OPEC oil price hikes and VEPCO increases, school officials announced.
The other major budget increases will be spent for special education programs required by state authorities ($247,000); running the English-as-a-second language programs ($152,400); building improvements at schools to make older schools equal to new ones ($400,200) and the restoration of several items such as field trips, in-service teacher training, summer programs and dining-room aides, which were cut from the 1976-77 budget last year. The restored items call for $1.2 million. (A total of $6 million in programs were cut from the 1976-77 budget.)
Shrinking state and federal aid to Fairfax schools is the reason why the local taxpayers will be asked to shoulder a larger share of the county school budget. State aid in the next school year will increase by $1 million only. "It's just not going up fast enough," said assistant superintendent for financial services, Myron E. Cale.
And Gov. Mills E. Godwin has warned that further cuts in state aid may be necessary if the General Assembly does not approve additional taxes in its next session. If these further cuts to the Fairfax schools are made, Fairfax would lose another $8.8 million in state aid.
Federal aid to Fairfax schools will decrease $6.5 million in the next school year mainly due to changes in the legislation giving assistance to jurisdictions with federal installations (commonly called "impact aid").
These losses will force the county to pay 62 per cent of the school budget vs. the 58 per cent it is now paying, increasing the county's present contribution to the school budget from $130.3 million to $149 million.
County Executive Leonard L. Whorton said that the "loss of the federal impact aid was a kind of surprise to us, but it looks like the $18.7 million can be worked into the county's financial plan." He said he did not know, however, if it could be done without a tax increase.
School board chairman Rodney F. Page, who called the budget "very responsible," said he was bothered by the increase in the county's burden of the school budget, but that it is no surprise. "This loss of federal impact aid is a long range problem for all local education jurisdictions and its going to get even worse," he said.
The 1977-78 school budget contains no new instructional programs and the zero-base approach required that all program managers justify all their positions and programs, Davis said. This first try at zero base budgeting took Supt. Davis about two weeks longer than other years, he said, to prepare the budget. Cale said the procedure had "a significant effect on the budget."
A total of 207 positions will be eliminated under the 1977-78 budget (156 because of declining enrollments) but there will be a net reduction of only 40 personnel largely because of necessary staff increases in the special education program. It will be the second year the school system loses personnel; 25 staff positions were eliminated in 1976-77.