The Fairfax County School Board was surprised -- and dismayed -- last week to learn that the school system was $1.2 million over budget for the first half of the current fiscal year.

Board members calmed down, however, when school administrators assured them that the increase in spending -- which was due primarily to staffing requirements for special education classes and a sophisticated new computer system -- was more than offset by an increase in state and federal aid and that the board would not be forced to ask supervisors for additional funds. a

One board member who expressed skepticism about the budget review process was Toni Carney, who complained that the board was not being kept informed about the costs of running the school system.

"I'm very distressed that the board was not made aware of these things," Carney said as she flipped through the 20-page mid-year budget report. "It seems like the board is sort of running along behind trying to catch up with you (the school administrators.)."

Board member Gary Jones noted that the board was seeing an "ironic twist of fate tonight. The perennial budget boosters don't want to boost our budget."

Several school board members noted that the $1.2 million figure was almost identical to the amount of money county supervisors cut from the school budget last year. School officials, however, said that any similarity was coincidental and denied that they had deliberately ignored the county -- set spending ceiling.

Senior board member Anthony T. Lane expressed exasperation at the furor over a budget report which is normally a routine matter.