Loudoun teachers, parents ask supervisors to fully fund school system budget
The speakers' plea came a couple weeks after County Administrator Tim Hemstreet presented the proposed spending plan based on the board’s guidance to present a budget at the estimated equalized real property tax rate of $1.135 per $100 assessed value.
Within that budget, the total transfer of county funds to Loudoun County Schools would come only $3.5 million shy of the school system's adopted budget for the coming fiscal year -- the smallest funding gap in years.
But parents and teachers urged the board to consider raising the county’s proposed budget by an additional half cent above the proposed tax rate to fully meet the needs of LCPS’ staff and students.
“I believe the additional half cent is worth it to improve mental health safety for our teens. I believe that an additional half cent is worth it to improve transportation and LCPS, I believe that an additional half cent is worth it to expand full-day kindergarten,” Sandy Sullivan, a third-grade teacher at Legacy Elementary School in Ashburn, said.
Several other teachers and parents echoed her call to action.
Sterling Middle School Teacher Corey Griswold said LCPS was not doing more with less but “less with less.”
“Our budget is people. That half cent and the tax rate is not a statistic, it’s my co-workers who help to improve the lives of our children. We serve as nurses to students who cannot get medical care, as counselors to those who cannot get mental care, kitchens to those who cannot eat and shelters to those without a home,” Griswold said. “We need to look past survival. It’s time to dream big.”
Hemstreet has advertised a real property tax rate of $1.140 to provide the board with options to fund LCPS’ budget request and to fund additional county budget requests.
The proposed budget is balanced at the equalized tax rate of $1.135, which is 1 cent lower than the current tax rate.
Meanwhile, LCPS’ allocation is up $61 million year-over-year, and the school system has adopted a $1.124 billion spending plan that bolsters mental health services, continues to expand full-day kindergarten and increases bus driver positions and pay.
Overall, LCPS’ fiscal 2018 budget is a more than 9 percent year-over-year increase and funds over 10,930 full-time-equivalent positions.
Included in the school system's budget is more than $38 million for increases relating to salaries and benefits
Amid competing county and LCPS needs, last week, supervisors questioned the school administration’s asks and cautioned that although the funding gap is one of the lowest it's been in years, the county government was also facing issues around salaries and compensation.
“That’s something we’re going to have a to address on our side, which could certainly have an impact on the school budgets in future years as we address the same type of critical need and turnover rates and things like that that you all are saying,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), chair of the board’s finance committee, said last week.
According to a county survey released last month, when asked which services Loudouners would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund, 50 percent of respondents said they would pay more to fix the county’s schools, followed by 45 percent who said they would want to fix traffic problems.
Mother Michele Copeland called on the board to fully fund the school’s budget at “whatever the cost.”
She talked about how she often had to re-learn algebra online to help her son with his homework because it's a challenge for him to grasp the subject in a crowded classroom.
Copeland said teachers like the ones at her son’s middle school deserved raises.
“Having smaller class sizes next year so kids like my son get the attention they need to learn math skills is money well spent, and I am happy to pay the extra half cent for this school budget if it means that I can spend less time learning algebra,” she said.
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