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Budget Testimony by Louise Epstein, Chairman of the FEC

February 5, 2012 by Louise Epstein

[The following testimony was delivered by FEC Chair Louise Epstein during the Public Hearing on the FCPS FY 2013 Advertised Budget on January 30, 2012. Greg Brandon, Web Editor]

Good evening. My name is Louise Epstein, and I’m the chair of the Fairfax Education Coalition. Our Coalition includes parents, teachers, and community members dedicated to strengthening public involvement with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and advocating for improved accountability, transparency, and community engagement in the FCPS decision-making process.

Tonight, we want to thank you for listening carefully to public comments made during the two budget dialogues on January 18th and 19th, and for engaging in a spirited and open discussion during the January 23rd budget work session.

I participated in the first budget dialogue. Many understood the strategic reason to ask for an increase of 8.4% in the transfer payment from the County. However, people were concerned about the prospect of a last-minute scramble if the Board of Supervisors approved a 5% increase over last year’s transfer payment and the Superintendent posted the draft Approved Budget on April 30th, the date of the budget work session. That timetable would give the public only two weeks to digest that budget before public hearings. It also would give you only one month to evaluate the changes between the publication of the draft Approved Budget and May 24th, when you will vote on the FY 2013 Approved Budget.

Last week, I was gratified to see most of you, at your January 23rd budget work session, indicate by a show of hands that you wanted to see a contingency budget after February 9th, when you vote on the Advertised Budget.

FEC suggests that this additional budget information be posted on your web site by April 1, one month after the County releases its Advertised Budget and three weeks after the Supervisors vote on the maximum property tax rate.

By posting budget options by April 1st, the public can provide more useful comments before your April 30th work session. This, in turn, will allow the public time to contact you with further information before May 10th, when the draft Approved Budget is presented. Finally, when they testify at the public hearing on May 15th, the public can attempt to respond to your comments during your May 10th meeting.

Thank you again for doing such a good job with public engagement this month. We hope you will adopt these procedural suggestions, to maximize informed and well-researched dialogues before you vote on the FY 2013 Approved Budget.

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