How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Politifact Agrees House Budget Cuts Education

Over the last couple days, I've been getting a bunch of emails regarding the House Budget and Fairfax County education funding and there has been some confusion. Hopefully, this will clarify that.

First, Virginia adopts a two-year budget after each election. In the "short session" that we are in this year, we adopt revisions to the budget based upon revenue adjustments or proposed policy changes.

In Virginia, the State sends education funds to each locality called "Direct Aid" determined by a formula called the Local Composite Index or the "LCI" which is based on a locality's ability to pay. Roughly speaking, here's how it works.
  • True value of real property (weighted 50 percent)
  • Adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent)
  • Taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent)
Putting aside the entire question of how fair this is, Fairfax County doesn't do very well under the LCI because one of the largest variables is property values and income, and our property tax base and incomes are so much larger than everyone else in Virginia we only get around 19% of our education funding from Virginia - other areas get as much as 80%.

At the beginning of this session, the Governor proposed to increase the Direct Aid by $92 million. The House of Delegates took the Governor's proposal and approved changes to it. The changes reduced the Direct Aid transfer and accordingly Fairfax County's K-12 transfer as follows.

Governor's Proposal for Fairfax County--------->$486,956,136
House Budget Amendments-------------------->$481,033,661
Difference Between Governor & House ---->$5,922,475

That's the math.

If there was any doubt about this, yesterday, the non-partisan site Politifact.com tested the assertion that the House Budget Amendments cuts education spending. They rated that claim as TRUE. You can read the analysis here or click on the Politifact "Truth-O-Meter" to the right.

I voted NO on the House Budget in-part because a vote for the House Budget Amendments was a vote to cut Fairfax County education funding by $6 million. You can read the statistics yourself by clicking here. In light of the unfunded mandates and new program needs in Fairfax County, the last thing we need in Fairfax County is less money from the state. See The Dixie Pig, $93 Million of K-12 Cuts.
The Senate proposed amendments that would result in Fairfax County receiving another $100,000,000 **on top** of the Governor's proposal. The net difference is about a $12,000,000 swing for Fairfax County.

There's also been some confusion as to the annual numbers. The State's Direct Aid appropriation in 2009 was $7,103,974,141. In 2011 the adopted transfer was $6,279,724,961. About a $900M difference. In other words, Virginia cut about $1 billion from education last year. That's the math.

There is confusion about this because although the overall amount of state Direct Aid went down, Fairfax County did not get hurt as bad. The reason for this is because Fairfax County's property values cratered much more deeply than the rest of Virginia. Therefore, our relative proportionate share of funding under the LCI actually went up so the amount of money we got in the end was not substantially diminished.

Finally, if you want to take a macro long-term view of education funding in Virginia and what the recent budget actions represent, here's another way to look at it. In FY2011, Direct Aid for Education represented 16.58% of the State General Fund. In 1990 it was 20.15%. In FY2009, the share at 19.17% but the cuts dragged us back down.

FY2012 will have the lowest Direct Education Aid transfer proportional to the overall General Fund in the last 22+ years. I don't have data from before that but state education funding today is at an historical low point.

Those are the facts.

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