Transparency - Frequently Asked Questions

General     Budget vs. Actual Expenditures     Vendor Payments


What is FOCUS?

FOCUS (Fairfax County Unified System) supports business functions including financial management, procurement, and human resources management for both Fairfax County Government (FCG) and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).  FCPS has currently implemented the financial and procurement modules of FOCUS. The data in the Transparency Application is from FOCUS.

What is the fiscal year for Fairfax County Public Schools?

The fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year. The fiscal year number is determined based on the June 30th year. For example, FY 2014 begins July 1, 2013, and ends on June 30, 2014.

Why can’t I view data prior to FY 2013?

At the beginning of FY 2013, FCPS and Fairfax County Government completed the implementation of  the new financial and accounting system. Due to changes in the format and structure of financial data between the old financial system and the new one, the Transparency Application  was developed utilizing the format of financial data in the new financial system. The intent is to display the most recent three fiscal years of data available in the new financial and accounting system. By FY 2015, residents will be able to view FY 2013, 2014, and 2015.

What is a “fund"?

As defined by the State auditor of public accounts, a fund is a group of accounts that are similar in nature (have similar activities, objectives, or funding sources). FCPS has a total of ten funds, a brief description of each follows:

School Operating Fund

This fund provides for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the schools and is funded primarily by county and state funds. In the Transparency Application, this fund is separated into: Operating Fund – Operations and Operating Fund – Central and Grants. The School Operating Fund is FCPS’ primary (or general) fund.  Those activities that are partially supported by grants and activities managed by departments on behalf of schools are shown separately from general operating activities.

Food and Nutrition Services Fund

This fund is used to account for the procurement, preparation, and serving of student breakfasts, snacks, and lunches. The primary revenue sources are receipts from food sales and the federal school lunch program.

Grants and Self-Supporting Programs Fund

This fund is used to account for federal, state, nonprofit, and private industry grants that support instructional programs. This fund is also used to account for the summer school program, funded primarily from the School Operating Fund and tuition. In the Transparency Application, this fund is separated by activity into Grants and Self-Supporting Fund – Summer and Grants and Self-Supporting Fund – Grants.

Adult and Community Education Fund

This fund is used to account for program activities offered by the Office of Adult and Community Education. These programs include basic skills education, high school completion, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), apprenticeship and occupational skills instruction, and various consumer education and special interest courses. The main revenue source is tuition paid by the participants, county agencies, and local businesses.

School Construction Fund

This fund provides for the construction of new facilities, facility renewals, expansions, building modifications, and other capital expenditures. Funds come primarily from the sale of general obligation bonds by the County.

School Insurance Fund

This fund provides for the administration of workers’ compensation accounts, the centralization of self-insurance accounts for liability, and the purchase of commercial insurance. The primary revenue source is a transfer from the School Operating Fund.

Health and Flexible Benefits Fund

This fund is a self-insurance fund used to account for the transactions associated with the comprehensive health benefits self-insurance program. This fund also provides for payment of eligible health care and dependent care expenditures for employees participating in the flexible spending account program. The primary revenue source is employer, employee, and retiree contributions.

Central Procurement Fund

This fund accounts for centrally procured materials, supplies, and equipment. Revenue is derived from the sale of centrally purchased items to schools.

Educational Employees’ Supplementary Retirement System of Fairfax County Fund (ERFC)

This fund is used to account for assets held for the members and beneficiaries of ERFC, a single-employer defined benefit pension plan. The primary revenue sources are investment income and employee and employer contributions.

School Other Post-Employment Benefits Trust Fund (OPEB)

This fund is used to account for accumulating and investing assets for FCPS’ post-employment health benefit subsidies for eligible retirees and their surviving spouses, as required by governmental accounting standards . The primary revenue sources are employer contributions and investment income.

Budget vs. Actual Expenditures

What is a “category”?  What is a “line item”?

FCPS uses the term “category” to describe a particular set of similar expenditures. For example, employee salaries are in the category “regular salaries” and electricity and natural gas fall in the category of “utilities”. A “line item” is simply the individual expenditure types that fall in the larger category. For example, “electricity” is a line item in the “utilities” category.

Can I use this application to view information related to revenues?

Currently, the Transparency Application database displays expenditures data only. Revenue information will be provided at a future date.

Why can’t I see expenditures for employee benefit expenditures by individual schools?

Both FCPS and FCG budget employee benefits in a central funding location; employee benefit costs are not budgeted for individual schools and departments. Employee benefits can be found in the Transparency Application in the Operating Fund - Central & Grants, under the Department of Financial Services.

Are schools and departments responsible for setting the salary budgets?

In FCPS, schools and departments salaries and positions for the Operating Fund are managed centrally by Financial Services.

Why are budgets and expenditures listed under the “Reimbursable Salaries” and “Work Performed for Others” (WPFO) line items negative?

The line item “Worked Performed for Others” is used when one department performs work on behalf of another. The department providing the goods or services is reimbursed for the cost of the goods or service, and this reimbursement shows up as an expenditure credit (negative expenditure.)   The reimbursement for labor costs is recorded as “Reimbursable Salaries.”

Why am I seeing negative amounts in other line items?

Budgets may be negative for several reasons.  For instance, in the Operating Fund – Central and Grants, certain grants may end the year with a negative balance in one or more line item or line item groups even though the grant itself ends the year with a zero or positive balance. This negative balance for the specific account will carry forward into the next fiscal year until it is realigned according to grantor guidelines.  In the Operating Fund- Operations, schools may carry over a negative budget in a specific account to the next year but again have a zero or positive balance as a whole.  This negative budget carryover will reduce the available budget for that account in the current fiscal year.

If you are viewing data for a period near the start of the fiscal year, certain expenditure accounts may appear negative as a result of the reversal of year-end accruals. Accruals are done for goods or services received but not yet paid for in the fiscal year. To properly account for these expenditures, accruals are done at the end of the fiscal year in which the goods or services are received. In the next fiscal year, the accruals are reversed in July, but the actual expenditures may not be applied for several months. During that time period, the accrual reversals appear as negative expenditures.

Why is the budget different than what is shown in other FCPS published budget documents?

The Transparency Application reflects the current budget as of the end of the month, which may include budget adjustments between categories or line items which occur after FCPS has published budget documents. Prior to the start of each fiscal year, the School Board formally approves that fiscal year’s Approved Budget. The Approved Budget for past fiscal years can be found on Budget Service’s website. During the course of the fiscal year, FCPS has three budgetary reviews (Final for the previous fiscal year, Midyear, and Third Quarter) during which the School Board takes specific action to approve budgetary adjustments. Schools and departments may elect to reallocate budget among line items with no net impact to the bottom-line. Outside of these quarterly reviews no changes may be made to the bottom-line budget for any fund.

How is the FCPS budget developed each year?

For schools and special education centers, baseline budgets are determined primarily by application of ratio-based formulas that meet or exceed state requirements and have been approved by the School Board. Each year, school-based positions and per-pupil allocations are recalculated by Budget Services based on the projected enrollment for the next year using School Board approved staffing formulas.

Based on demographics at each individual school, the number of school-based positions and funding for other school expenditures reflect the total number of students, as well as the additional student services needed. Additional student services include ESOL, special education services, and eligibility for free or reduced-price meals.

Since enrollment and student demographic projections are used to calculate the number of school-based positions required, changes in the number of students and/or student demographics will result in a change in school staffing. Consider the following simplified example:

In FY 2013, an elementary school is projected to have 500 students which requires 25.0 teachers. In FY 2014, the same school is projected to have 510 students but the number of ESOL, special education, and/or free or reduced-price meals eligible students projected has increased (one possibility for this would be the demographics of the exiting 6th grade class differ from the entering kindergarten class). In this case, School Board formulas require 27.0 teachers or 2.0 additional teachers for ten additional students.

Staffing formulas and examples of how staffing is calculated and allocated to schools are included in the proposed and approved budget documents.

While school and center budgets are determined primarily by formulas and recalculated each year for the proposed and approved budget cycles, changes to department and region budgets are made in various stages in the budget process. Departments and regions will project resource needs for coming years using the fiscal forecast that is published with the approved budget and is reviewed and revised in preparation for the following budget cycle. Requests for positions and other resources are made in the late summer and early fall and considered for the proposed budget. In addition, departments and regions may realign existing nonschool based and centrally-managed budgets in preparation for the proposed budget. These nonschool based budget changes are driven by many factors, such as academic priorities and initiatives, demographics, service levels, economic and market factors, and state and federal requirements. Final changes to department and region requests occur in the approved phase of the budget.

How are budgets managed by schools and departments?

FCPS allocates positions and funding for non-personnel items (e.g., materials and supplies) directly to schools and departments. Principals and program managers are responsible for managing their school and department budgets. They are provided with the authority to hire and fill positions instead of being allocated dollars for staff. This allows principals to hire the best possible teachers and staff members to meet their individual school needs while the funding for positions is managed centrally by Budget Services.

In the case of positions, and some other areas like employee benefits and utilities, it is most efficient for FCPS to budget centrally. When FCPS budgets centrally, the expenditures are still reported at specific schools and locations.

Why does FCPS always end the year with an available balance?

As is the case with most governmental entities, FCPS cannot start or finish any fiscal year with a deficit. As a result, FCPS, like FCG and the state, historically has ended each fiscal year with an ending balance.

Included in the ending balance is carryover for encumbered obligations or undelivered orders that reflect orders for goods or services that have not been received or performed as of June 30. In addition, FCPS allows schools to carry over unspent funding from their logistics (costs other than salaries) and hourly accounts. This carryover encourages schools to utilize a multi-year planning effort to meet student needs.

Since the approved budget for the upcoming fiscal year is adopted prior to the Final Budget Review (carryover) being completed, each year the approved budget is revised to reflect the impact of carryover. Therefore, both FCPS and FCG have revised (or estimated) budgets that exceed the approved budget.

Is the financial data presented in the Transparency Application considered audited?

Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the data being presented, it should be considered "unaudited".

Vendor Payments

I know that a specific vendor has conducted business with FCPS, but I cannot find it in this database. Why?

There could be several reasons. If the nature of the vendor, or FCPS’ business with that vendor, falls under the privacy or sensitivity restrictions, like those under the auspices of HIPAA, the vendor will not show  in the database. If the vendor has provided goods or services to FCPS, but has not yet received payment for those services during the current fiscal year, then the vendor will not appear in the database. Finally, if the vendor conducted business with FCPS in one or more prior fiscal years but has not transacted any business with FCPS during the current fiscal year, then that vendor will not show up in the search results for the current fiscal year. If a vendor does not fit in to one or more of the above scenarios, but you still cannot find any data using this application, please email us.

Additionally, please consider the following when searching:

  1. Do not use wild cards (*,?,”).
  2. Check your spelling, and consider alternative spellings of the vendor name.
  3. A vendor will not be displayed unless FCPS has activity with the vendor in the selected fiscal month and year.

What are the various methods of disbursements?

Payments to vendors can be made via check, Automatic Clearing House (electronic ACH), wire transaction, or procurement card.

How are disbursements made through Procurement (Credit) Cards shown?

Payments made for purchases using a procurement card will be shown under vendor JP Morgan Chase Bank NA.

Do payments shown to a Vendor represent all the payments that were made to them for the selected period?

Only payments that were made directly to them are reflected. However if the vendor was paid by procurement card, that data will not be included. Procurement card payments are made directly to JP Morgan Chase Bank NA.

Why are there multiple names for one vendor?

Payments can be made to different subsidiaries or entities of one vendor. These different subsidiaries could represent different stores, ordering, or remittance locations and are kept separate for payment and transparency reasons.



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Last Updated

October 2, 2015