News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Three Words You Don't Want to Hear Together: 'Schools,' 'Bloodbath' and 'Catastrophe'

Hunter Mill School Board Rep. Stu Gibson didn't mince words when talking with Reston parents about the county budget shortfall that has already imperiled language immersion, music, art and full-day kindergarten programs in Fairfax County Schools.

Hunter Mill district school board representative Stu Gibson told parents at a meeting at Hunters Woods Elementary School Tuesday night that unless the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors changes their outlook, the school system will be in for a catastrophic budget crisis.

"Unless they significantly change or alter their spending priorities we're looking at what my daughter would say is a ginormous deficit," Gibson said. He said FCPS stands to lose about 2,000 positions while an anticipated 3,000 more students come into county schools next year.

Gibson said the message school officials have been trying to deliver to the community is that if the county executive and board of supervisors do not provide enough funds to schools there could be long-term negative affects.
Negative "affects" like students graduating without knowing the difference between "affect" and "effect"? Yikes! How much more will we have to pay in property taxes to avert such a catastrophe?
To stay at the same level of instruction an 11-cent tax rate increase would be required, Gibson said. He said to provide all the money the schools will require for the expected increase in students would require a 21-cent tax increase, and to wipe out the county's budget deficit as well would require a total 28-cent tax increase.

Gibson said there is not a lot of time to work on the budget because the superintendent has to release the advertised school budget on Feb. 4. The county executive will release the county's advertised budget on Feb. 23.

The board of supervisors has to advertise the new tax rate on March 9. Once a tax rate is advertised it cannot be increased, Gibson said. He said a 10-cent real estate tax rate increase would result in a "bloodbath" for the schools next year.

Gibson said the board of supervisors understands the need and the difficulties but are sometimes afraid to take risks because of how it will affect them politically. For example, he said some residents at a Dranesville district budget meeting told Supervisor John Foust they would vote him out of office if he voted for a tax rate increase.
That would be an unfortunate affect, that's for sure. For our part, we're happy to pay a few more sheckels in taxes on our lovely earth-toned hovel to ensure that our kids get the education we moved here for them to receive in the first place. Otherwise, this blog may well have been called "Hinterlandonian" and featured lots of stories about people without enough rusting appliances in their yards, the end.


  1. People -- FCPS already gets 53% of the County Budget! How much more do they think they need? Everyone wants "my kid's program" to continue, but raising taxes or cutting other parts of the county budget are not the only options.

  2. I too, am happy to pay a few more sheckles to ensure that Fairfax County continues to have the level of education offered in the past. And I don't have any children in the school system. But I know the quality of our schools and the quality of our transportation, will directly affect the value of all of our real estate.

  3. hickory Cluster Knuckle DusterDecember 18, 2009 at 6:12 PM

    My little one is a few years away from going to school, but I am happy to pay a little more in taxes to see the schools kept at their current excellent standard.

  4. How about fewer scare tactics and more updated compensation policy for county workers. Much of the deficit comes from pension contributions to their dated defined-benefit plan few of us in the private sector have. Moreover, last year when the county tried to cut 500 positions, the SEIU, serving its own needs and not the county's, tried to block the move.

    It's stupid to pay higher taxes for fat benefit packages, especially when county workers have had it much easier in the recession than private sector workers.

  5. READ MY LIPS---NO MORE TAXES (and I mean it unlike the other famous utterer of those words).

    Full-day kindergarten? Good riddance.

    Immersion Languages? Let's focus on English, ppl -- since so few grads of SLHS seem to be able to put together a cogent thought in their heads let alone put those thoughts on paper.

    Schools have considerably worsened here in recent years and the outrageously overpaid teachers and administrators should suck it up, do more with less and either shut up and teach or quit and move on. There are plenty of teachers who would work for a fraction of what the current ones make!

  6. Anyoune who listens to anything Stu-pid has to say is a fool.

    FCPS fails at almost everything they're suppose to do except take care of TJ & Langley students. The rest are abandoned to incompetents like Butler and his gang of idiots.

  7. I have studied the FCPS budget problem and believe the biggest problem is the mandatory payments to the VRS (Virginia Retirement System).

    At last check the payment to VRS for FY 2010 is going to be $270 million, which is a $110 million increase over last year.

    This is hard to believe that they will be increasing the payment over last year by almost double! But it is required to fund the defined benefit plan guaranteed by the plan.

    That increased payment is really what is crippling the FCPS budget, which has a shortfall of about $170 million. So almost the entire shortfall is created by increased benefits payments.

    We need to reform the VRS system. I believe because of the Va budget problems Gov. Tim Kaine actually suspended payments to VRS to temporarily help with the state problem.

    I recommend we advocate doing the same. This increased $110 million payment dwarfs the cost of Immersion.

    Suspending payments won't fix the problem long term, but perhaps after that we can work on reforming the system.

    Basically, the FCPS is saying to guarantee a retirement benefit for teachers way down the road, we need to cut immersion and other programs. That makes no sense to me.

    Defined benefit plans are a luxury very few get these days and in these tough times things have to change.

  8. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)December 20, 2009 at 10:42 AM

    $0.53 of every $1 I pay ALREADY goes for the public schools, and yet they want to cut funding for non-school-related programs that singles like ME use (libraries, parks, etc.) in order to give MORE to the schools? That's mind-boggling!

  9. Hickory Cluster Knuckle DusterDecember 20, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    BiCO correct me if I'm wrong but you are a renter and therefore are not paying any property taxes (though I'm sure your landlord passes them along...)

    When you get a little bit older you will realize that the world does not revolve around 20 something singles (OMG it is TRUE!)

    Money spent on education is (to quote a cliche) an investment in our future. You don't realize it but the school system is what drives property prices, it enables Fairfax to compete with Montgomery and Loudon for jobs.

    Even if you have no interest in having kids it is in your best interest to maintain FCPS at current levels.

  10. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)December 22, 2009 at 7:30 AM

    I may not pay property taxes, but living in a car-centric community like Reston one does tend to own a personal vehicle. In my case that turns out to be a tax whammy in and of itself of $700, which is no small chunk of change for someone earning less than half of the town's median income. Also, I'm paying a rather high rent for a 1-BR apartment, so I'm sure my property management company has inflated its rental rates accordingly to reflect the tax burden they have.

    I'm not implying life does or SHOULD revolve around we 20-something lower-middle-class singles, so get off your high horse. However, when there's already less here in Reston for us to enjoy than most other demographics you tend to get annoyed when they want to take what little you DO get to enjoy away to further pad the budgets of line items that already receive sufficient funding. The last two times I was at the library it was packed, and there were no volumes left of the books I had wanted to check out. Does that sound as if it warrants a funding CUT to you? Ditto parks and recreation.

    I'm not insensitive to the importance of a valuable education, but why does Fairfax County's solution seem to just be "let's throw more money at it?" I went to a public school district back north that spent much less per pupil, and guess what? I turned out just fine. The mantra of "more $$$ = better" that has infected NoVA really needs to be re-evaluated.

  11. I would be happy to pay more taxes to keep the FCPS system working properly and making sure our kids do not suffer the ill effects. We are already seeing an increase in class size, the loss of counseling and other needed positions being removed, and the music programs cut back severly. We can't keep having a high level of services if people are not willing to pay more. Tax payers need to get real and realize that we do need to pay taxes to keep our current services.

  12. 12/22 0813:

    Then put your kids in a private school and pay for what YOU want and keep your sticky hands out of my wallet.

    The three "R's" are what are REQUIRED to be taught --- nothing more --- and the rest is all gravy that should not be burdened on everyone as a tax.

    Taxes are WAY too high here and need to be cut, not increased.

  13. Tell me there is not LOTS more fat to cut in the budget -- just like this expensive and redundant waste.

    A "hot line"? Even the White House - Moscow hot line was deactivated years ago.

    Utter waste in our pathetic school system:

    The cuts keep coming.

    As of Jan. 1, Fairfax County Public Schools will discontinue its telephone hot line service. Currently, the school system offers telephone hot lines for emergency updates in English, Korean and Spanish, as well as one just for employees.

    The decision to discontinue the hot lines was made in light of budget cuts for fiscal 2010.

    Residents and employees can get emergency information by checking the school system's Web page,; subscribing to the FCPS e-mail notification system, Keep in Touch, at; or checking cable Channel 21. Local television stations also carry FCPS emergency notifications.

  14. Hmm. I think the affect/effect thing was confused because if the sentence structure were changed affect might have been correct. If the sentence were rearranged/changed and it wasn't corrected it's an easy slip-through mistake. I've seen much worse in newspapers.

    It would be right if it said:
    "Gibson said the message school officials are spreading is that the county executive and board of supervisors' budget pirorities could negatively affect the area in the long run if schools do not receive more funds."

    When used as a verb it means to influence, bla bla bla, not what the story is really about. It's more about scaring people in an economic sh!t storm, so bring on the fun.


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