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December 1, 2015

Va. funding formula update penalizes Fauquier schools

Higher real estate values and retail sales hurt Fauquier’s Composite Index, which Virginia uses to determine local ability to pay for public education.
This increase . . . results in Fauquier’s reflecting a higher ability to pay than that of the state’s average.
— School system Budget and Planning Director Marcy Cotov
Seven months before the new fiscal year begins, Fauquier’s public schools stand to lose $1.7 million in state funding.

That would represent a decline of 3.7 percent from this year’s $45.1 million the county gets from Virginia for public education.

But, the General Assembly and Gov. Terry McAuliffe will determine the actual amount of state funding next spring.

Fauquier this year gets just more than one-third of its $131.6-million school budget from the state.

But, the Virginia Department of Education’s newly calculated Composite Index for Fauquier assumes the county can afford to provide more local funding for schools. The new calculations rank Fauquier 19th among 135 counties and cities.

The Composite Index determines a school system’s ability to pay costs associated with the state’s required Standards of Quality. The state uses three indicators of local funding capacity:

• The true value of real estate.

• Residents’ adjusted gross income.

• Taxable retail sales.

Fauquier’s Composite Index is 0.58 for the 2016-18 biennium that starts July 1. That represents an increase of 0.02, the state’s fifth highest.

School system Budget Director Marcy Cotov cited two factors for the increase:

• Real estate values that have risen 12 percent, compared to the state’s average increase of almost 8 percent.

Fauquier real estate has a total value of $13.7 billion.

• A 13-percent rise in Fauquier’s taxable retail sales, compared to the state’s average increase of 6 percent.

Fauquier’s taxable retail sales totaled $694 million in 2013, the year used for the new index.

Fauquier’s modest population increase “tempered somewhat” the impact, Ms. Cotov said in a press release.

“However, the slight decline in enrollment increased all of the components used in the Composite Index formula – true value of property, taxable retail sales and adjusted gross income – in relationship to the state’s average,” she added. “This increase in relationship results in Fauquier’s reflecting a higher ability to pay than that of the state’s average.”

The change “could significantly impact” the school system’s 2016-18 biennial budget, Ms. Cotov said.

Officials from Fauquier and other counties for years have sought Composite Index allowances for “land-use” real estate valuations, which give tax breaks to owners of property in agriculture, forest, horticulture or open space. Fauquier provides about $18 million annually in tax breaks for such property, which the Composite Index values at full market value. Local leaders contend the county gets penalized for encouraging conservation.

Del. Michael Webert (R-18th/Marshall) early this year introduced legislation to address that issue, but it died in committee. Legislators from more populous suburban and urban areas have no interest in such allowances, according to Fauquier officials.

County and school officials will refine budget projections early next year.

The board of supervisors typically adopts a county budget — including school funds — in late March.
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Silii · December 3, 2015 at 7:51 pm
Michael Webert was all concerned about the schools in Petersburg several years ago. I guess they didn't return the "favor."
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