Loudoun School Board adopts budget with $16.7 million in cuts
After more than six hours of debate and discussion, the School Board on Jan. 24 shrunk Loudoun County Public Schools’ fiscal 2014 budget by $16.7 million from what was proposed in December.
The budget adopted by the School Board is $859.7 million – down from Superintendent Edgar Hatrick’s proposed budget of $876.4 million.
The largest cut is a voluntary $3.5 million reduction by the school system’s Department of Technology Services, which halved its request for new computers.
The reduction, presented by Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services Richard Contartesi, downgraded a plan to put mobile devices in the hands of every teacher in the county into a pilot program that would cost $500,000.
The pilot will instead consist of 650 devices targeted to teacher, student and lab use and will look at devices on the market.
Contartesi also recommended implementing a computer refresh for 47 schools, with a $1 million reduction in the budget offset by grant money.
The grant can be put toward the refresh because the technology would be used because the computers would be used for online Standards of Learning (SOL) testing.
Several board members thanked Contartesi for listening to board input and adjusting his request.
“If anybody wants to cut $5 million of their budget as well, we could make this a very short night,” Fox said, jokingly. “It is rare for us to get this type of assistance in making some very difficult decisions.”
Contartesi’s request passed 8-0, with School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) absent for family reasons.
Another large cut included Fox’s plan to change how the school system pays for employee healthcare, saving the school system $4 million.
Fox’s plan for healthcare changes school system policy by having LCPS pay equal amounts to the premiums of the open access plan (OAP) and the point of sale (POS) plan. The school system currently pays more into the POS plan.
He also amended his plan to include a $15 premium for the employee-only OAP plan and an $18.75 payment to employees who don’t take any health insurance from LCPS.
“I think just as significant is doing something in Loudoun County that other jurisdictions don’t do and that is to rebate people for part of the compensation they’re foregoing,” Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said. “It’s actually saving the school system far more money and enabling us to keep that money in the classroom . . . it is a giant thank you.”
The healthcare plan passed 7-1, School Board member Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) opposed and Morse absent.
The School Board also discussed and implemented several policy changes that would have no impact on fiscal 2014’s budget but would effect new hires, both proposed by Fox.
The first change implemented a tiered healthcare system so that all employees who work more than 30 hours a week receive the full LCPS premium subsidy.
Employees who work between 25 and up to but not including 30 hours would receive 85 percent of the LCPS premium subsidy and employees who work 20 and up to but not including 25 hours would receive 70 percent of the premium subsidy.
Employees who work less than 20 hours a week would not be eligible.
Fox emphasized that it expressed the new direction the board wanted to take.
“It shows both the public and the Board of Supervisors that we’re making long-term structural changes,” Fox said. “That we are making a change in a direction that is aimed at long-term savings to the taxpayer.”
The second policy change redefined a full-time employee from 17.5 hours a week to 20 hours a week, putting LCPS on par with Fairfax County Public Schools’ policy.
Previously, LCPS required the least hours in Northern Virginia to define “full time,” which allowed employees to take part in the state-funded Virginia Retirement System. The policy doesn’t effect current employees, only new hires.
The School Board added two positions to the budget – a librarian and a library assistant for nearly $112,000.
Other cuts made by the School Board:
• moved operating equipment funds to lease purchase: $4,165,000
• reduced OPEB contribution by LCPS from $14 million to $12 million: $2 million
• removed five bus driver positions: $202,603
• removed three general maintenance worker positions: $170,365
• removed three custodial positions: $120,300
• removed three safety and security specialists: $151,816
• removed one warehouse assistant: $38,500
• removed one accountant: $71,500
• cut $500,000 from the Facilities Services’ operations budget
• cut $400,000 from Assistant Superintendent of Support Services’ budget
• cut $400,000 from Legislative and Planning Services’ budget