The Fairfax County School Board, offering regrets to techers, who will be limited to 3 percent raises next year, and congratulations to Superintendent William J. Burkholder, adopted as submitted last night Burkholder's "very austere" $449.5 million budget proposal.
Board Chairman Ann Kahn summed up the board's view by saying: "This is not a normal time, and to disregard the economy is a luxury that no one on this board or the Board of Supervisors, or any citizen who reads the paper can afford."
The budget's smooth and amicable adoption was a compliment to Burkholder, and a sharp contrast to the acrimony that surrounded debate over former superintendent Linton Deck's budget proposal a year ago. Deck was fired, partly because of the furor over his budget.
Burkholder's budget proposal, which now goes to the supervisors, shows an increase of $22 million, or 5.1 percent, over this year's spending. That percentage increase adheres to a limit set by the supervisors, who are scheduled to act on the school budget in April.
Before the meeting, Burkholder said he expected the budget to go through easily. "The way it's set up, the only way to add anything is to take something out. And that's going to be hard to do," he said.
School Board members, one after another, praised Burkholder's budget performance. Lee District representative Tony Lane called it an "excellent job" and Dranesville member Mary Collier termed it "a miracle."
Each member then officially regretted holding teacher salary increases to the 3 percent proposed by Burkholder. Lane remarked: "To use the analogy of the business world, a lot of people were going to be lucky to have a job."
Kahn said objections to the supervisors' cap on spending "are not in the real world."
Burkholder made a few minor adjustments to his original proposal, including a decision to rehire 40 instead of 35 laid-off teachers and a $200,000 contingency fund for paying possible unemployment benefits.
Mount Vernon representative Gerald Fill offered a series of amendments, including what he called a symbolic motion to freeze the salaries of the top 100 administrative employes. All of his motions were defeated.
Springfield member Toni Carney warned that "if we start pulling [the budget] apart, it will start falling apart. It was put together very carefully and I hope we can deliver it intact to the supervisors."
At-large member Robert Frye agreed, saying he did not think the projected $169,000 saving through freezing administrative salaries met what he called the "cost efficiency test."