The FCPS Budget
In Fairfax County, 53% of every county tax dollar you pay in personal property and real estate goes to funding our Fairfax County Public Schools. Specifically, this money is transferred to FCPS from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS). This year’s (FY 2019-2020) FCPS annual operating budget is $3 BILLION DOLLARS. The portion of FCPS’ budget that is provided by your local/county tax dollars accounts for a little over 71% of the total budget.
Charts courtesy of FairfaxCounty.gov
Note: To figure out how much of your personal property taxes go to FCPS, you can use this handy calculating tool called the Fairfax County Tax Calculator. All you need to do is enter your home address.
The next major portion (16.6%) of the budget comes from the state of Virginia. However, because Fairfax County is relatively wealthy, our schools only get back about 17 cents of every dollar. The rest of the budget comes from sales tax (7.2%), reserves (3.8%), the City of Fairfax (1.6%), federal aid (1.5%), as well as carry-over and a few minor sources.
Sadly, since the year 2000, Personal Property Taxes have increased by 176%, while household income has only increased by 44% and inflation by 57%.
Charts courtesy of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
During this same period, FCPS’s student population has only increased by 24%. Thus, we know that real FCPS spending (adjusted for inflation) has increased by 122%, whereas, based on our student population, it should have only increased by 45%.
Other key facts to consider include:
Roughly 75% of tax-payers in Fairfax County do NOT have children under the age of 18.
After factoring in those families that opt to home-school and/or use private or religious-based schools, 78% of county tax-payers do utilize our schools.
Indeed, only 22% of tax-payers actually utilize our schools for educational instruction.
Everyone’s property values are tied to the success of our local public schools.
In addition to its annual $3 Billion budget, FCPS has a $180 Million capital improvement budget. However, there is almost a $1 Million capital backlog on new building and school renovations.
Additionally, the renovation queue is well beyond the stated 20 to 25-year cycle that has been established in policy. Some schools linger on the renovation queue so long that students face over-crowded classrooms, reduced programming options, and significant time lost due to children moving back and forth between buildings and trailers. And sadly, some schools are already projected to be over capacity even before ongoing renovations are completed.
To accommodate this backlog, FCPS continues to utilize almost 800 trailers and has done so for the last 2 decades. Most of these trailers substitute as classrooms throughout our county, which translates to roughly 10% of our student population being educated in trailers each year instead of a brick and mortar classroom.
In addition to trailers, FCPS also utilizes many modular structures to reduce overcrowding. But unlike trailers, modulars are treated as permanent structures and counted in FCPS school capacity figures.
With continuing efforts to draw more new businesses and companies to both Fairfax and the surrounding counties, and with the pending arrival of “HQ2”, the capacity needs of FCPS will only be exacerbated in the near and long term.
Ultimately, FCPS will be facing many facility and budgetary challenges over the next decade. It will, therefore, be imperative for this next School Board to be dedicated in its efforts to:
Establish more rigorous oversight of FCPS’ capital infrastructure planning,
Be prudent in its capital budget development,
Develop better student population projection methodologies,
Be innovative in considering ex-urban school construction,
Foster public-private partnerships, and
Collaborate with the Board of Supervisors on capital funding.