Falls Church School Superintendent Warren Pace has called for an increase of more than 12 percent in the city's school budget next year, with more than half of the increase to go for higher salaries. If approved by the School Board and City Council, the new budget would boost pay for new teachers to a level comparable to those of other Northern Virginia systems.
Under Pace's proposal, overall school spending in the fiscal year beginning July 1 would rise to $7.4 million, up from the current $6.6 million budget.
Pace has recommended that about $450,000, more than half of the increase, be used for higher salaries for the system's approximately 80 teachers, six administrators and 59 support-staff employes.
"I would say as loud and clear as I possibly can that this budget places its most important emphasis on personnel . . . . ," Pace told the school board in his budget message last week. "In order to attract and retain the best teachers, our school system must provide proper compensation."
The superintendent's budget fully endorses recommendations made last month by a committee of Falls Church teachers and school administrators. The group proposed raising the starting annual salary for city teachers from $15,700 to $18,040 next fall. This year, Falls Church's starting pay for teachers is the lowest in the Washington area.
The salary committee also recommended a schedule-wide increase in teacher pay. For example, the new salary schedule would boost the annual pay of a teacher with a master's degree and 10 years of experience from $28,417 to $31,584.
Higher teacher pay would cost the system about $305,000. Pace has budgeted about $145,000 more to raise salaries for the school system's principals, secretaries, clerks, bus drivers and custodians.
Pace said no new educational programs would be offered under his budget but some current programs, including English as a second language, would be expanded.
The superintendent's budget funds about six new employe positions next year. The new hires would compensate for the expected increase next fall of 71 students, an increase that should bring enrollment to 1,132.
About $151,000 of the proposed increase would pay for increased costs of employe benefits . Another $200,000 would be used for instructional materials such as textbooks, supplies and library books.
Under Pace's proposal, the city's share of the school budget would be $5.74 million next year, a 13.2 percent increase over the $5.07 million paid by the city this year. The proposed budget anticipates about $51,000 in federal aid, $968,000 in state aid and $411,000 in sales tax revenues. Revenue projections include an anticipated $210,000 surplus from the current fiscal year.
The School Board is expected to adopt the budget Feb. 19 for submission to the City Council. The board will hold hearings on the budget on Jan. 7, Jan. 22 and Feb. 4.