After weeks of meetings and hours of arguments, the Fairfax County School Board has decided to snip $2.3 million--half a percent--from next year's $436.4 million school budget.
The board is expected to decide at its meeting tonight specifically what to cut from the budget after voting Monday night on the amount it would cut. Board members ordered Superintendent Linton Deck to return tonight with proposals for slicing $2.3 million from the budget.
"That's nothing compared to the total budget," said school board member Gerald A. Fill, an advocate of more drastic cuts.
At the other end of the spectrum, board member Anthony T. Lane stalked out of the meeting to protest the budget-cutting method used by the board--giving the superintendent a dollar amount to cut from the budget but not specifying which items to cut.
"Frankly, I don't think this budget comes anywhere close to what this school system needs," Lane said. "I'm not going to support any cuts."
Most of the 11 board members were in the mood for at least token cuts in the budget submitted by Superintendent Deck.
"A time when people are standing in line to get free cheese," said board member Toni M. Carney, "is not the time to submit a budget for a $38 million increase to the Board of Supervisors."
Deck's proposed budget calls for a 15.5 percent increase in the county's share of the school budget. The budget would grow by $42.8 million, with the county asked to provide $38.9 million of that amount. The remainder would come from state funds and other school-generated revenues.
The three-hour round-table budget debate Monday indicated that most board members would like to see Deck cut back his proposals for expanding programs, adding new staff positions and giving elementary school principals and substitutes extra pay increases.
Deck's budget includes a $19.3 million increase for employe pay raises, $4 million for employe benefit improvements, about $1 million for expanding computer systems for classrooms and administrative offices, $1.8 million for replacing classroom supplies and $2.7 million for 70 new buses and other school vehicles.
Other increases would be used to add 60 instructional aides to the staff, hire 46 permanent substitute teachers and provide more photocopiers and telephone lines to individual schools.
"I don't think we can afford this budget," said member Carmin Caputo. "It's just too much money."
The board is expected to vote tonight on Deck's revised budget. The budget then will be sent to the county Board of Supervisors for further action.