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Fairfax School Board Faces Tough Decisions On Budget Cuts

School leaders in Fairfax County are trying to figure out how to balance the books next year, but the choices are divisive.

Should class sizes be cut? Should employees be laid off? These are some of the difficult decisions before members of the Fairfax County School Board, who are meeting today in Merrifield to review a list of menu items that could be on the chopping block. Balancing the books could mean classroom staff reductions or furloughs or maybe even eliminating a foreign language instruction program.

"I have people ask me all the time will there be cuts?" says Superintendent Karen Garza. "I think that question was already answered for us, that we have a $140.7 million shortfall that we need to address."

Garza, who joined the school system over the summer, is presenting a list of about 50 potential cuts. Not recommendations, she's quick to add, just items for consideration. The list includes the potential elimination of 1,700 staff positions and a new fee for student athletics.

"We need more money from the state, we need more money from the county," says School Board member Dan Storck, who represents the Mount Vernon District.

Asked whether that would mean higher taxes, Storck says that is the Board of Supervisors' responsibility.

"If we had the ability to do that on the school board, I would be happy to make those decisions and present it to the public," Storck says.

School Board members are at the beginning of the process for creating a budget, which will be formally presented early next year.

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