Rallying Support for Proposed Budget

Administrators reach out to students and staff for help

Will technology be updated? Will faculty and staff get raises? Will there be added security in all schools?

These are just a few of the items being taken into consideration by the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors as it decides how much money to give the school system. Every two years, the Board of Supervisors has to pass a new budget. Dr. David Jeck, Fauquier County superintendent, and the School Board, come together to fight for a piece of that financial pie.

This year, Jeck has asked for an additional $6 million in funding; however, the county maintains it only has between $2.5 and $3 million to give the schools, which presents a problem for both sides. The Board of Supervisors represents county taxpayers. They are responsible for making sure that all taxpayer money is being spent responsibly. In order to fully fund the school budget, taxes would have to be raised, a move many taxpayers oppose.

“It doesn’t matter how much money the school systems get if it isn’t effectively reaching and impacting classrooms,” one resident wrote on Fauquier Now’s Facebook thread. “Fully funding the school budget has nothing to do with impacting classrooms and education. Cut the bloat of administrators, flashy signs, etc…”

Another resident agreed stating that more could be done with the money the school system already has.

“Eliminate all unnecessary school expenditures and you have a case,” the resident wrote. “The taxes come out of the pockets of these children’s parents. They aren’t learning that in school.”

Dr. Jeck believes his budget is what’s necessary to take schools to the next level.

“Everything in the budget is ultimately for you guys, for your future,” Prashant Shrestha, assistant superintendent of business and finance, said. “Safety and security, broadband, literacy, hiring great teachers, etc. are services/initiatives in the proposed budget that our superintendent believes will produce a better experience for you – the student.”

Shrestha described the budget as a “discussion of values,” meaning the money goes to the most pressing, or highest priority things, in the budget. Dr. Jeck’s top priorities for the budget are: safety and security, which he has taken steps to improve following events in Florida; technology, increasing broadband; and the workforce, aiming to retain high quality employees for the school system. All of these items are dependent on the Board of Supervisors decision on how much money the schools will receive.

Teachers, students, and community members showed up at a public hearing on March 15, asking the Board of Supervisors to fully fund Dr. Jeck’s budget. Sixty seven speakers addressed the board. Jennifer McIntyre, a fourthgrade teacher at Ritchie Elementary was among the speakers. She warned that not passing the budget could have drastic consequences.

“I’d like to start the conversation about what we, as teachers, will no longer do, if we are not appropriately, financially compensated,” McIntyre said. “Has this county seen teachers organize? Has this county seen teachers work to the rule? This county should not have to see this. These ideas are not pitchforks. This is not being unkind. This is assertive; this is factual. Teachers, if this budget does not pass or there are concerns, we need to organize.”

The public hearing lasted more than three hours. The Board of Supervisors is expected to pass its budget on March 22. Once that budget is passed, it’s up to the School Board to decide where the allocated funds will be spent.

“Most students and parents have one or two items that are most important to them,” Brian Gorg, Center District representative, said. “So we collect a sort of collage of ideas and priorities. We also listen to our staff about identified needs.”

In a Twitter poll by The Chronicle, students were asked where they wanted to see budget money spent. The results were: *52 percent said teacher pay *22 percent said security *17 percent said equal opportunity *9 percent said technology.

“Budget is tricky, daunting even, but don’t let the numbers scare you,” Shrestha said. “Budget is a simple process of prioritizing and committing to what we value.”

No matter how the budget pans out, Shrestha added, “We have three roles that we can play. We can be villains, victims, or heroes. Don’t we all want to be heroes?”