Fairfax County School Board’s Mount Vernon rep seeks more fiscal responsibility from FCPS
Mateo Dunne, the Mount Vernon District’s new representative to the Fairfax County School Board, wants Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to be more transparent and accountable in its budget requests and spending practices.
Dunne, speaking at the 37th annual Mount Vernon Town Meeting at Mount Vernon High School on Feb. 10, said he presently cannot support FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid’s FY25 budget request for an additional $254 million from the county.
“That’s not something I think is realistic,” he told audience members.
Noting that taxpayers have borne the brunt of the public school funding burden for “too many years” due to underfunding at the state and federal levels, Dunne said the situation needs to change. Some of his colleagues on the school board are headed to the Virginia state capital this upcoming week armed with talking points from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study, which found that the commonwealth’s school divisions are significantly underfunded.
“We really have to look to the federal government and the state government to fulfill their underfunding,” said Dunne. He told On the MoVe he opposes further property tax increases as Fairfax County taxpayers have “paid more than their fair share for decades.”
At the Feb. 8 FCPS School Board Meeting, Dunne said the school system needs to communicate to residents why more county funding is needed at a time when overall school enrollment is expected to be flat. This includes explaining the changing nature of the school population — according to FCPS data, around a third of students are economically disadvantaged, 15% have disabilities, and nearly 19% are English learners.
“It’s a vastly different population than it was even 20 years ago,” said Dunne.
Dunne also believes improving efficiencies is important, so the school system gets the maximum return on investment for taxpayer dollars. He cited potential changes in procurement and contracting methods as ways to save millions of dollars and said FCPS should engage more with industry and pay closer heed to reports from advisory groups like the Facilities Planning Advisory Council, which Dunne sits on as the school board liaison.
“As I’m diving in,” said Dunne, “I’m finding business practices, procurement practices and other opportunities to make sure that we spend in an efficient manner so we can make sure that schools get renovated faster, school infrastructure is updated more quickly, and teachers actually get the compensation that they deserve.”
Besides fiscal responsibility, Dunne told Mount Vernon District residents at the town meeting that his priorities include academic excellence, school safety and security, mental and behavioral health support, and workforce compensation.
Dunne plans to hold his second virtual town hall with community members March 12 from 7 to 8:15 p.m.
The Fairfax County School Board will hold a public hearing on the FY25 Proposed Budget on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church.