(This post is adapted from testimony by FEA President Kimberly Adams to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on April 7, 2015.)
It is with great pride that my organization supports the FCPS School Board budget request. To say that Dr. Garza and her staff have worked hard is an understatement. This is the closest I can recall, in 15 years, that FCPS has come to meeting the budget guidance, despite significant cost drivers as you heard outlined by Chairman Tamara Kaufax.
As President of the FEA, I first represent the interests of the FCPS employees I serve. As the Board of Supervisors, it is your job to represent the interests of the whole county through your budget. It is your job to raise the resources needed to meet the needs of the county, but this year you have chosen to tie your own hands, and then tried to excuse your actions by saying your hands are tied.
You have already decided not to raise the tax rate or even advertise the possibility of a rate increase, so that in these public hearings we – your constituents – could tell you what we need. You did this with no public input.
Here’s what your proposed county budget does not do:
- It will not keep our schools world class.
- It will not address all the service gaps that state and federal Medicaid reductions have caused. It can’t possibly enrich the lives of students who desperately need one-on-one counseling and health care services of community-based programs.
- It isn’t working to ensure that we achieve a preschool classroom for every three- and four-year-old in Fairfax.
- It likely won’t maintain a fast enough response time necessary for our first responders to save lives. It does not provide for the upkeep of open spaces we have specifically preserved. It won’t address the shortage of voting machines and keep pace with early voting options.
- It doesn’t keep the promise of housing and dignity for struggling Fairfax families.
This proposed budget is a sham.
Our community recognizes that we are being short-changed.
Fairfax is the fifth wealthiest county in the United States, and yet you tell us that we lack resources? Nearby Montgomery and Arlington counties have found the will to properly compensate their employees. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has listened to their constituents and agreed to fully fund their School Board’s budget.
And where are we? We are falling behind. Fairfax schools have nearly 1,000 euphemistically named “modular education units” or “trailers.” We have multiple schools on the state watch list, and the number of schools on that list is increasing. Some might say that comes with changing demographics, but maybe if we fully and appropriately funded all our county services, including outreach to struggling families, we would not have this problem. You have told us to find somewhere else to cut – there is nothing left for us to cut but our children’s future hopes and dreams.
You talk about employee compensation, and nearly everyone on this dais pays lip service to how important this is. We are ALL your employees across the county, and we hope that one day you might not parse us into competing groups to fight over pieces of a shrinking pie.
It is you who have made the choices that require us to pick and choose between education and safety, between repaired roads and public parks. I remind you that most of my 26,000 FCPS colleagues are residents of Fairfax County, some are business owners, many are parents or want to someday become parents, and all are Virginia taxpayers and YOUR employees.
This budget and, I am sad to say, many of you are stuck in the last decade.
Some of you began to question if education and parks, libraries and health services were even necessary for Fairfax residents at the expense of a few pennies on every $100 of home value. You’re wrong if you think that people who own homes here want to see our county decline and with it our housing values and their eventual sales prices. Those sale prices become much more important as people consider leaving Fairfax to live in jurisdictions where their representatives share their values; perhaps places like Loudoun, where the residents spoke out and told their Supervisors what they wanted and their voices were heard.
Here in Fairfax we have been told that this is a difficult time to ask for improved funding. After all, it is an election year. It is true that it is an election year, and FEA, for one, will be working hard to let our members know which elected officials have their interests at heart and which have decided to cause permanent harm to our county for the sake of a few pennies.
As the governing body in our very diverse and thriving county, I ask you, my Board of Supervisors, to fully fund our county services and Invest in Fairfax now and for years to come.