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Stafford school budgets won't get any easier

Date published: 5/16/2013

"There is never enough money; that is the very definition of budget," said Nancy Collins, the Stafford County budget director, recently ["Budget options few for Stafford schools," May 10]. How insulting!

The county budget process is broken. For years, the school budget has been developed from curbstone revenue estimates that totally ignored the legally submitted School Board budget.

The county budget shows a fund balance of $55.6 million with $29.6 million as undesignated. That surplus grew by $21.1 million over the last two years by grossly underestimating revenue that supervisors boast as "savings."

The supervisors only deepen their predicament with political giveaways. There is the $800,000 in boat tax, $8 million in full BPOL, and many tens of millions in proffers from developers, not to mention the "pizza and breadstick"-sized reductions in the car sticker and real estate tax.

The impact on future school budgets is disturbing. The five-year county model shows the local instructional fund increasing by less than $2 million per year. That will not cover increasing external costs, let alone pay raises.

Both boards' priorities spell a decline in our ability to provide a 21st-century competitive education.

There are 31 capital projects underway that by 2018 will increase county operating expenses by $2.8 million, meaning even less for schools. There is $45 million for courthouse-area improvements in 2016-19, further taking away from education. With 200 students on a Head Start waiting list, there is no facility planned until 2023 along with the start of a long-overdue CTE center. Our high schools are at capacity and there will be trailers at each soon, yet the earliest classroom expansion isn't scheduled until 2019.

It is time for the parents of 27,000 students to make big changes in November.

Dean Fetterolf