Fairfax: Lawsuit over school funding is 'last resort'
Fairfax County officials, still fuming over a proposed freeze of roughly $61 million in state education funding, said they are pursuing a legislative fix but called a potential lawsuit "a last resort."
Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee), speaking at a Tuesday meeting of the county's Economic Advisory Commission, said officials and lobbyists are working with their House and Senate counterparts in Richmond to find a way to reinstate the money, which is distributed in a complex formula so that poor school districts get more state funding and wealthy districts get less.
"If we don't get what we need out of a legislative fix, a lawsuit is a very last resort," McKay said.
At several points during the meeting, supervisors reiterated the phrase, "It's our money," highlighting the tone of much of the debate over the school funding formula. Officials have argued that money would go a long way to help Fairfax close an expected $315.6 million budget shortfall next year and that the freeze is an insult to Northern Virginia localities that have participated in the formula for years.
But Vice Chairman Penelope A. "Penny" Gross (D-Mason) emphasized the cost of litigation and the potential for a years-long battle for the money are significant factors in deciding whether to go the lawsuit route.
"A lawsuit is a considerable cost and I know the schools would like it if we didn't have to spend that money," Gross said, nodding to a smiling Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale sitting nearby.
Former Virginia governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) proposed a one-year freeze of the LCI (local composite index) formula, in an effort to save $30 million statewide and ease the anticipated additional burden on about 90 school districts.
Virginia pays less than 25 percent of Fairfax's schools budget and closer to 80 percent for some other districts. Every two years, the formula is recalculated, using updated data on enrollment, income, retail sales and real estate values. This year, Northern Virginia districts stood to gain significantly more in state funding, largely because of declines in the housing market.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has yet to take a firm stance on the freeze.
February 2, 2010; 3:04 PM ET
Categories: Derek Kravitz , Fairfax County
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