It was not just another late night with the Fairfax County School Board -- last week's marathon meeting was aimed at lopping $3.7 million budget.
But it almost didn't happen.
"I move that we table the budget," board member Eltse Carter said when the board began to consider budget cuts at 11 p.m. last Thursday.
Board member Gary Jones seconded the motion. But the motion lost 6 to 4 and the board begin a budget debate that lasted until past 1:30 a.m.
The first question, when the board finally began considering budget cuts, was pupil-teacher ratios. Last winter, the board approved reducing class sizes in grades 4 through 6 from 28 students for each teacher to 26 students, at a cost of $913,000. The reduced class sizes were to have gone into effect next fall.
Representatives of the two major teacher's groups in the county were strong supporters of the move and spoke in favor of the reduced ratio at the beginning of the meeting.
Despite that support, the reduced ratio was the first item to go.
Next the board voted to save $167,686, by instituting a temporary freeze on administrative hiring.
The board decided to save $450,000 by not purchasing something called "additional equipment" -- what type of equipment the schools now would be going without was not elaborated upon.
Finally a series of more than 19 cuts, totaling $1 million and termed the "least painful" by Superintendent Linton Deck, were approved. Among those cuts were eliminating the practice of paying basketball coaches on a per diem basis, estimated to cost $45,000, and eliminating the purchase or lease of a computer, estimated to cost $200,000.
All told, the board approved more than $2.5 million in budget cuts. All were required because the county Board of Supervisors trimmed the school budget by $3.7 million -- allowing the school board to decide where to make the cuts. The board has asked Deck to come back at quarterly intervals to recommend the additional $1.5 million in cuts required by the county board.
The board had been slated to cut another $1.5 million, separate from the county cuts, in anticipation of a reduction in federal funds to the schools. The board decided to delay action on those reductions until Congress approves a final budget for the coming fiscal year.