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    UPDATED: School system presents budget, asks for $53 million increase

    Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Edgar Hatrick on Dec. 4 presented his $876.4 million operating budget for fiscal 2014.

    The system is asking for a funding increase of $53.3 million or 6 percent compared to last year’s budget of $823.1 million.

    The proposed budget is “needs based” and was developed without consideration of factors outside the school system, including the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ estimated $55.9 million gap in funding.

    About half of that growth comes from an additional 2,566 students, costing the school system about $26.8 million more, mostly to add staff with the opening of two elementary schools, Moorefield Station and Discovery, according to LCPS spokesman Wayde Byard.

    “We were able to contain costs during the recession,” Hatrick said. “We cannot continue to absorb the cost of new students indefinitely.”

    A placeholder amount of $12 million is left for employee compensation, pending the results of a salary study. Byard said the number estimated was $2 million less than the amount in the last fiscal budget.

    The $8.2 million is allotted to refresh all lab and AV computers in 47 schools and begin a one to one ratio of computers to teachers in those schools.

    Group health insurance is expected to increase by $5.3 million and a mandatory increase of $1 million must be paid by the school system into the Virginia Retirement System.

    Hatrick told the board that the budget contains no new programs,  no program reductions or expansions.

    “I wish this budget could be one of new initiatives and expansion,” Hatrick said. “But the economy does not allow for that kind of improvement and a growing student population.”

    To fund the $53.3 million increase, Hatrick is asking for $45.8 million more from Loudoun County, $6.6 million more from Virginia and an additional $200,000 in federal funding.

    About $700,000 is expected to come from other sources, including Advanced Placement, athletic and building use fees, according to Hatrick.

    Hatrick said the budget gap would threaten the school system’s ability to keep class sizes low.

    “Were the gap to be real, I don’t believe you could have a second successful year of dealing with the issue of class size, it’s just too big,” Hatrick said.

    Hatrick said he was concerned about increasing class sizes in elementary school.

    School Board member Bill Fox (Leesburg), questioned the growth of cost-per-pupil, saying it seemed to unnecessarily outpace last year’s growth.

    “You add the costs to that associated with opening two new schools,” Hatrick said. “There are extra costs every time you open a new school. Some staff move with children, but some staff are new to the system.”

    Fox didn’t seem totally convinced that new school construction accounted for the increase this year, citing that new schools, John Champe High School and Frederick Douglass Elementary School, opened with a less cost-per-pupil (CPP) increase.

    He said he was more concerned that CPP continued to go up with no new programs added in the school system. 

    CPP measures the amount of county budget spent per student. It increased $581 from $11,014 to $11,595 in the fiscal 2013 budget, or 5.1 percent.

    It would increase $675 from $11,595 to $12,270, or 5.6 percent in Hatrick’s proposed budget.

    Hatrick said the increase could be cut down if the School Board declined to appropriate money for new computers or textbooks, or if the School Board cut programs.

    “I think it would be easy enough to give a list of why the cost-per-pupil goes up,” Hatrick said.

    Comments

    I hope you do not mind that I fowarded your thoughts to the school board LoCo Wonders.


    Hallelujah
    I hope you sent that to the school board members and the board of spending LoCo Wonders


    This all part of the LCPS very effective public relations master plan. First, ask for a huge increase in the budget.  Threaten that we will never be able to recruit another public school employee or get our kids to school ever again unless the budget is “fully funded”. (Whatever that means)  Next, propose cuts to the budget that will necessitate cutting such frivolities as Math, English and History. (But spare Mandarin Chinese in the elementary schools)  Step three is to wait for public outrage to die down and then propose an increase of “only” 4 or 5% instead of 10 or 11 % and send out a press release that highlights the “sacrifices” made by the LCPS while warning that if the B o S continues to shortchange education that our schools will fall apart and our kids will all be forever dumb.  Better yet, make a video. Remember, it’s all about THE CHILDREN, not the education machine that consumes 80% of the Loudoun County’s revenue every year.  Conveniently argue that, while LoCo has the highest property taxes in the Commonwealth, high taxes will have no effect on our ability to attract and retain a commercial property tax base and new businesses.  Taxes should be immediately raised to provide the Kingdom of Loudoun School System with whatever they need because it’s for THE CHILDREN.    Make a promise to review the budget line by line to identify and wring out any fat in the budget.  At the end of the year, announce another increase in test scores, the construction of 5 new schools (including the first $100 mm high school in the history of LoCo) and a $20 mm budget surplus.  The most important part of the whole plan, however, is the spend the remaining funds on electronic whiteboards, iPads or junkets to China BEFORE the Board of Supervisors finds out about the surplus by reading about it in the newspaper.  Articulate that a “lack of trust’” between the Board and the Hatrick Administration resulted in the lack of honesty about the budget surplus.  (DO NOT admit that the budget had some “padding” built into it)
    In the end, we will continue to increase the LCPS budget by 2 or 3 times the rate of inflation (after adjusting for over-estimated increases in enrollment), the kids will continue to go to gold-plated schools, closing the smallest, most inefficient schools will be “off the table”,  English and math will remain part of the curriculum, the land acquisition process will remain done behind closed doors,  part-time employees will continue to receive full benefits and Superintendent Hatrick will make yet another junket to a far-off land to observe how they teach their kids and impart this new-found wisdom on the school system.
    But remember, no one in the real world (private sector) gets paid benefits for part time jobs, school employees will remain fairly paid in return for a contractual 7 hour day 197 days a year with full health care and retirement benefits.  We will continue to build schools because it not real money if it gets bonded.  Sounds like a square deal to me. We must remain calm. 
    We’ve read the LCPS budget battle book before and we know how it ends.


    And how much of this proposed budget increase will actually go to special needs kids? Maybe if Hatrick spent a little more time hiring competent special ed teachers and assistants your autistic kid wouldn’t be treated like a red-headed stepchild by LCPS. As it is, the schools try to water down IEPs (individualized education plans) to provide as little as possible for your child. That way there is less burden on the special ed teachers, who are overburdened due to LCPS’ indifference towards making special ed a higher priority in the budget.


    The inflation index that I can find says we are looking for about 24 million for a total of 847 million to maintain the status quo. Get parents to pay for bus service and get rid of benefits for part time employees. Pay for play, no more free rides just because you are associated with the Loudoun School system.


    Most buses are half full, especially HS buses. How about cutting out 1 day a week? At HS, you’re paying for new turf fields. Smart boards in every classroom isn’t cheap. Perhaps laying off some of those assistant superintendents? Outsource the IT dept, web site seems to have more broken links and a few days late of information. I still see many LCPS cars, unsure why LCPS owns/leases cars? And I’ve seen these cars driven after hours, perhaps someone is just borrowing it??? No need to print out all the marketing brochures. There are always ways to cut back. It’s just whether School board will make tough common sense decisions or give Hatrick a blank check like usual.


    Good Point Chris N. Since it is not mandated by Virginia that school bus service be provided for anyone but special needs the bus service is a convenience for the family. It’s a safer way to get children to school, it save parents time, and it saves wear and tear on their own vehicle. This costs the school system about 4 dollars per child per day. If you subtract the ESOL student, the special ed students and the students who qualify for free or reduced lunches you have right at 44,000 students left from a total enrollment of just over 66 thousand. If you charge these 44 thousand student 4 dollars a day for a safe, convenience and cost effective way to get their children to school for 36 weeks you come up with $31,680,000.00. Considering we have one of the highest incomes per family in the USA the only excuse the parents of these 44,000 children has is????


    Good Point Chris N. Since it is not mandated by Virginia that school bus service be provided for anyone but special needs the bus service is a convenience for the family. It’s a safer way to get children to school, it save parents time, and it saves wear and tear on their own vehicle. This costs the school system about 4 dollars per child per day. If you subtract the ESOL student, the special ed students and the students who qualify for free or reduced lunches you have right at 44,000 students left from a total enrollment of just over 66 thousand. If you charge these 44 thousand students 4 dollars a day for a safe, convenience and cost effective way to get their children to school for 36 weeks you come up with $31,680,000.00. Considering we have one of the highest incomes per family in the USA the only excuse the parents of these 44,000 children has is????


    “Quit giving free bus rides to childrens families who are not special ed, whose income is below the poverty line or any that qualify for the free lunch program.”

    Are you kidding, Oranges869? Have you ever seen the traffic around these schools right as school is closing with people with people picking up their kids already? Can’t you imagine the gridlock it would cause if the majority of parents had to drive their kids to and from school?


    Hatrick’s description of LCPS as lean an mean is comical.  There is stil A LOT of fat to trim.  We are long overdue for both the BoS and School Board to get LCPS’s fiscal house in order.  The only one that seems to take that seriously is Bill Fox.  I hope the rest of the Board listens to him.


    Every year Hatrick pulls the same stunt. We must have this much money over and above last year to maitain our schools. He’ll get 26.5 million from the Board of Spending and they will call it a reduction. Cut the benefits for employees who work less then 32hours a week and let Obamacare pick up that cost. Quit giving free bus rides to childrens families who are not special ed, whose income is below the poverty line or any that qualify for the free lunch program. There is your 53 million.

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