Press Release: Delegates Propose Budget Amendments to Protect Fairfax County School Funding

For Immediate Release

Delegate Dave Albo
Cell 703-867-8756

January 7, 2009

Delegates Propose Budget Amendments to Protect Fairfax County School Funding

Springfield, VA—Governor Timothy Kaine’s proposed amendments to the 2008-2010 budget include a second year $584 Million reduction in Direct Aid to Public Education. But, in making these cuts, the Governor forces Fairfax County schools and other areas that receive little state funding in the first place to bear a greater share of the cuts.

After reviewing the Governor’s proposed budget amendments, Delegates Dave Albo and Tim Hugo discovered that the Governor’s proposed budget amendments at page 176, lines 9-14 state:
Funding is provided to affected school divisions in the second year in amounts necessary to limit the reduction in their state funding distribution on a per pupil basis due only to the aforementioned actions at $403.90 per pupil.

This amendment has the effect of limiting the education budget cuts in areas that already receive a large portion of their education budget from the state, and consequently makes areas like Fairfax County which does not receive much money from the state make up the difference.  Today, Hugo and Albo drafted a budget amendment to strike it.

Most of the Direct Aid to Public Education is distributed to local school systems through the often criticized formula known as the “Composite Index”.[1] The Composite Index sets the percentage of basic education that each school system must pay. It ranges from school systems which have to pay 20% of their basic education costs (e.g. Halifax must pay 23.8% and thus the state pays 76.2%) to 80% (e.g. Fairfax has to pay 76.5% of its basic education and the State pays 23.5%).

This index results in the state providing much less funding per pupil in Fairfax County. While Fairfax receives only $3019.50 per pupil, other areas receive well over twice that (Lee County $8,896.70/pupil, Sussex $7,945.20/pupil, Danville $7,396.90/pupil). Even urban areas such as Virginia Beach receive $5,766.50 and Richmond receive $6,988.30.

So when across the board cuts are made, areas that receive more per pupil from the state are hit harder. The Governor limits the loss to $409.30 per pupil. While this sounds like a nice thing to do, what it does is shift the burden of covering the cuts to areas that receive little state funding, most notably Fairfax County.

Delegate Albo stated, “The Composite Index is a rip off for Fairfax County to begin with, and the Governor has used the excuse of a Recession to make this formula even worse. It limits cuts in per pupil funding to areas which receive $6,000 – $8,000 per pupil, but makes no limit in cuts to areas like Fairfax which only receive $3,000 per pupil from the State.”

Albo continued, “If the Composite Index is acceptable to the rest of the State in good times, then it should be acceptable to the rest of the state in bad times! They can not get gobs of money when times are good, but be limited in how much they get cut in times that are bad. I am outraged by this plan to steal money from Fairfax County and distribute it throughout the state when we are scraping up money from under couch cushions to build South County Middle School and can not find funds to renovate the 40 year old West Springfield High School.”

In his education cut language, the Governor essentially declares that when enacting these cuts, any area that receives a large portion of their basic education costs from the state, will have their cuts capped at $409.30/pupil. This results in areas that do not receive as much initial funding from the State (e.g. Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria) to make up the difference.

Delegate Tim Hugo was disturbed, but not surprised, “Just like the last Recession in 2004, when the State increased taxes for education and sent the money South, they are at it again. Fairfax County pays about 25% of all of Virginia’s taxes and because of the Composite Index, receives less than 7.45% of the total public education funding. This action by the Governor to hold other areas of the state harmless beyond a $403.90 reduction per pupil will have to be made up by other areas – and obviously, that includes Fairfax County.”

In a joint statement, Hugo and Albo stated, “Our public schools in Fairfax County have their own problems. Our teachers are presently underpaid and we are in desperate need of construction and renovation funds. It is patently unfair to hold harmless some areas of the state and not Fairfax County.”

###

[1] Because of a Virginia Supreme Court case, which requires that some formula be used to distribute state money to less affluent areas of Virginia, the Composite Index formula has been used. This formula is essentially a series of factors that weighs a local school division’s number of students and its ability to raise tax revenue. The ability to raise tax revenue is essentially a measurement of relative wealth of a local government and includes factors such as property values, income of citizens, sales tax revenues. And since Fairfax County is relatively affluent compared to other local governments, and since this formula is weighted in favor of those local governments that are less affluent, the formula results in some school systems receiving 80% of their basic education paid for by the State, and some receiving only 20% of basic education costs paid by the State.

See: http://hac.state.va.us/documents/2008/Post-Session/HB30/Public%20Education.pdf

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