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Fauquier County school-backers turn out for public hearing

Tuesday, Mar. 25 | By Jonathan Hunley
Kate Warzinski has sent six children through the Fauquier County Public School system. She pleaded with the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night to make the education of the county's children a main priority.
Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Hannah Dellinger
Fauquier educators and parents brought a clear message to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night:

They want as much funding as possible for education in the next fiscal year.

Twenty-four of 28 speakers at a public hearing on the fiscal 2015 county budget told supervisors that their money priority is the schools.

Some even said they would be glad to pay more taxes to accomplish the goal – no small claim in a county where politics is dominated by Republicans.

"I am asking you to make the investment in the future of our county," said Kate Warzinski, a parent of children in Fauquier schools.

County Administrator Paul McCulla proposed a $166.4 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

It would devote $80.4 million to county schools, nearly $2 million more than the current fiscal year. But that total is some $3 million less than the School Board says is necessary.

It's not likely that supervisors will vote to make up that entire difference, but Supervisor Chris Granger said after the public hearing that he's willing to see if the gap can be narrowed.

For more on this issue, see Friday's Fauquier Times.

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Brumfield Elementary 5th grade teacher Pam Graves, shown above at the podium, gave a very compelling speech at the public hearing on March 25th. She is one of many exceptional teachers whom we want to hold onto in Fauquier County. A net total of 3% in raises over the last 6 years may not be enough to keep our teachers here in Fauquier County Public Schools. 
Mr. McCulla, Fauquier County Administrator, proposed to fund only a fraction of the very lean budget increase which Dr. Jeck requested for FY 2015. The County recommended $2 million increase would barely cover the $1.7 million dollar mandatory repayment to the Virginia Retirement System and provide only $300,000 more to cover all of the other needs of our school system. With this plan, there would be no room for improved compensation and benefits for our teachers, one of the highest priorities in the Superintendent’s proposed FY 2015 budget.
We have a mismatch between Fauquier County’s capacity and its effort to fund its schools. The Virginia Department of Education has determined that Fauquier County has the capacity to fund its schools quite well. Because of this, our school system will lose $1.5 million in State level funding for next year. Effort is the willingness of a locality to fund its school system. Unfortunately, based on past and proposed County level funding, the effort to adequately support Fauquier County Public Schools has been inconsistent and our teachers have suffered. In 2011, the Census Bureau listed Fauquier as the 8th richest county in the country. Here again is the mismatch. Our county is notably wealthy yet our schools remain underfunded.
Our youth hold the key to the future economic prosperity of Fauquier County. We need to nurture this precious natural resource by providing our youngest citizens with a strong educational foundation. Underfunding our schools sends a message that education is not a high priority here. We hope our Supervisors will support our public school system, not only for FY 2015, but always.

By Kate Warzinski on 2014 03 27

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