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2002-04-08 FCTA identifies $400M in wasteful spending.

Recommended reductions to the Fairfax County FY2003 budget

April 8, 2002
By Arthur G. Purves
President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance


Provided below are specific suggestions for budget reductions of approximately $300 million in the Fairfax County Public Schools budget and $100 million in the Fairfax County government non-school budget.

Where budget items are mandated, the county should request that the mandate be waived or lifted.

In the following lists, each budget item is shown with its FY2003 cost. Sometimes the cost is followed by a slash and the number of personnel staffing that budget item. Finally comes a negative number in parentheses, which is the recommended reduction, in millions of dollars.

Example: Reading Resource Teachers $11M/192 (-11)

Explanation: This budget item costs $11 million and supports 192 staff members. The recommended reduction is $11 million.

Then follows a justification of the budget reduction.

With the school system hiring 2000 personnel a year, school personnel reductions might be achieved with minimal layoffs.


.In the 1999 campaign for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, the successful candidate, when asked about taxes, did not "... foresee raising taxes after the next election." In the two years since that statement was made, real estate taxes for the typical Fairfax County household have increased almost $1000.

The tax increases since the 1999 election are the largest in the 22 years for which the county has published real estate tax trends.

County spending has spun out of control. The current budget is $1 billion more than needed to cover inflation and population growth of the last 25 years. School staff has increased four times faster than enrollment. While the growth of county staff has been restrained during the 90s, between 1975 and 1991, county staff grew three times faster than population.

County programs generally subsidize problems rather than solve them.

Offsetting this year's tax increase arising from higher assessments requires reducing the real estate tax rate from $1.23 to $1.06, which would reduce county revenues by $200 million.

Setting the rate at $1.06 is not a tax cut; it only prevents a tax increase. Any rate above $1.06 is a tax increase.

Fairfax County Public Schools FY2003 Proposed Budget

The county can have higher-achieving schools at lower cost. FCPS has added frills while neglecting the basics. The average SAT score for FCPS seniors is at the 65th percentile, a number the school administration does not publish. This percentile does not support the superintendent's claim of a "world class" school system.

1. Instructional Services Department $30M (-20)
Instructional Services Department constantly changes the curriculum but has generally been unable to increase test scores.

2. Department Of Special Services $17M (-10)
Merge with Instructional Services.

3. Department Of Information Technology $100M (-50)
The FCPS Program Budget shows the budget to be $36M. However, Dr. Domenech has stated that the schools are spending $100M on computers. Computers have not increased achievement. Computerization of administrative functions has increased administrative costs rather than reduced them.

4. Career And Guidance Counselors $19M/322 (-10)
There is no evidence that guidance counseling improves behavior or increases achievement.

5. Elementary School Guidance Counselors $11M/200 (-11)
After Family Life Education and Elementary School Guidance counselors were introduced in the late 80s, expulsion cases heard by the school board increased 500 percent. These programs were ineffective in preventing that increase.

6. Learning Disabilities $81M/1564 (-50)
Provide phonics-based reading and Saxon math instruction before labeling a child as "learning disabled".

7. Psychologists $7M/89 (-7)
8. Social Workers $6M/73 (-6)
The Learning Disabilities mandate overlays an expensive administrative process including psychologists and social workers on top of a curriculum that is ineffective because it does not teach basic skills.

9. Assistant Principals $21M/287 (-10)
The number of assistant principals has increased, without a clear justification.

10. School Clerical Staff $30M/1000 (-15)
Streamline and eliminate administrative work to reduce clerical staff to the levels of 25 years ago.

11. Seven-Period Day, Block Scheduling $30M (Est.) (-30)
Block scheduling, which was implemented because students could not handle seven periods a day, has not raised achievement. The seven-period day is not mandated. It principally benefits college-bound 9th and 10th grade band students who, because they have to take health, then have to attend summer school to take an academic elective. A better solution is to make 9th and 10th grade health optional and end the seven-period day.

12. Special Needs Schools $12M 202 (-12)
This program provides extra staffing for schools with concentrations of low-income students. It was never intended to raise achievement and never has. A better solution is to fix the curriculum.

13. Reading Resource Teachers $11M/192 (-11)
These would not be needed if schools used phonics-based reading instruction.

14. Project Excel $20M (-20)
This past year test scores have increased for Excel schools, probably because these schools are using more phonics than non-Excel schools. However, Excel schools also have additional costs due to extra computers and increased staffing. The administration should try the phonics-based reading and Saxon math instruction without the computers and extra staffing and see if they get the same results.

15. Success-By-Eight $3M (-3)
See Excel schools.

16. International Baccalaureate $2M (-2)
There's no need to have IB and Advanced Placement.

17. Itinerant Gifted/Talented Teachers $3M/58 (-3)
Adding E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge focus on literature, geography, and history to the regular classroom would make the regular classroom more stimulating than the current G/T program.

18. Elementary Physical Education Teachers $10M/220 (Est.) (-10)
Children would do better with recess three times a day outdoors than going to a gymnasium a few times a week. Elementary school boys especially need frequent opportunities to exercise.

19. Speech Impaired Program $18M/227 (-15)
Teach phonics and diction in the regular classroom instead.

20. Pre-School $20M (-10)
Fixing the curriculum in the regular classroom might do more to help many of these children than preschool followed by a flawed curriculum.

21. Transportation $76M (-15 est.)
If the regular-classroom curriculum were fixed (add phonics, arithmetic based on drill instead of hand calculators, explicit grammar instruction, and E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge emphasis on geography, history, and literature) the regular classroom in the neighborhood school would be more stimulating than the magnet classrooms. It would no longer be necessary to bus students to magnet programs, G/T Centers, High School Academies, and Thomas Jefferson. If parents are still unsatisfied with the neighborhood school, then provide the parents with tuition tax credits for private schools.

Fairfax County Public Schools Budget Issues

Alternative Education $25M: Why is this program growing?
Emotionally Disabled $41M: Why is this program growing?
Elementary schools:

  • Why does such an affluent county require elementary-school cafeterias?
  • Elementary children would be better served by an outdoor playground than by a gymnasium.

    Fairfax County non-school FY2003 Advertised Budget

    Rapidly growing programs in the non-school budget include family services and welfare. Despite welfare reform, county welfare costs have increased. The demand for welfare is fueled by the public schools' failure to close the minority student achievement gap, leaving too many children unable to find a job in the information age. Another cause of poverty is single parenthood, which the county encourages by providing the shelter, food, healthcare for which the father would normally be responsible. The county cannot afford to pay professionals to provide the services traditionally provided by stay-at-home mothers: childcare, volunteering at school, after-school supervision, and eldercare. Fairfax County should become a "subsidy-free zone" where individuals can experience the dignity of being self-reliant.

    1. Economic Development Authority - $7M (-7)
    Attracting businesses to the county was to have reduced the residential tax burden. However when the commercial tax base increased, the county did not reduce residential taxes. Instead, the new commercial revenue funded the huge increase in school and county staffs. The extra commercial tax revenue was not even spent on road and school construction.

    2. Family Services - Childcare $68M (includes $18M from SACC fees) (-10)
    The county has invested heavily in childcare. There is still a childcare crisis. Subsidized childcare, including School-Age Child Care (SACC) at schools should be phased out. Children need to be socialized by their parents rather than in large groups of children.

    3. Family Services - Prevention Services (Healthy Families Fairfax) $2M (-2)
    A more effective means of strengthening families would be to revise Family Life Education to emphasize that marriage must precede having children. Also, when the county provides childcare, food, shelter, and health care to low-income children, it is telling the mothers of these children that the fathers are not needed, thereby encouraging out-of-wedlock births.

    4. Family Services - Children, Youth, and Family Services $26M (-20)
    Limit Child Protective Services to helping children identified as the result of police intervention. Leave foster care and adoption to private agencies.

    5. Family Services - Adult and Aging Services $11M (-8)
    Limit aging services to elder-abuse identified as the result of police intervention. While on the one hand county programs for the elderly are well-intentioned, higher county taxes are forcing the elderly out of their homes.

    6. FASTRAN $3M (-3)
    The county should expect families to take care of their own. Neighbors, churches, and other civic groups can help.

    7. Community Services Board $81M (-30)
    Between 1985 and 2000, the number of CSB clients decreased from 26,000 to 20,000. Over the same period, the CSB budget in inflation-adjusted FY2002 dollars increased from $38 million to $117 million.

    8. Health Department $39M (-26)
    Let the medical profession handle "cost shifting" between low-income and well-off patients, without government intervention.

    9. Administration for Human Services � $12M (-6)
    10. Systems Management for Human Services - $6M (-3)
    Reduce these programs as the CSB, Department of Family Services, and Health Department are scaled back.

    11. Department of Housing and Community Development $9M (-9) (of a $68M program)
    Despite subsidized housing, there is still a severe shortage of low-income housing. A better solution would be to zone trailer parks and areas that can be built at sufficiently high density so low-income people afford to live there without subsidies. Phase out subsidized housing.

    Fairfax County Budget Issues

  • Sheriff $35M: Why did jail prisoner-days increase seven times faster than county population between 75-98?
  • Community Services Board $81M: Why did CSB budget triple while number of clients decreased between 1985 and 2000?
  • Pension Funds (assets of $3B): These funds should disinvest from businesses that profiteer from violence and promiscuity. This approach, which ended apartheid in South Africa, might remove violence and promiscuity from our pervasive entertainment media.
  • Department of Finance $7M: In the last ten years, the Department of Finance has sold over $1 billion in bonds without getting any leverage. The county owes $600M in interest for bonds.
  • Department of Planning and Zoning $9M: Despite the planning and zoning process, we have a transportation crisis and a shortage of affordable housing. Should zoning and centralized planning be replaced by covenants?
  • Updated April 8, 2002

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