In front of a room full of community members Jan. 7, Loudoun County Public School's Superintendent Ed Hatrick delivered his last budget proposal as superintendent to the School Board.
Hatrick proposed a total school budget of $952.42 million.
Under his spending plan, increases in expenditures are projected at $108.7 million with revenue increases projected to be $87.5 million from the county, $20.3 million from the state, federal funding increased by about $400,000 and a increase from fees at another $500,000.
In November, Hatrick, along with Leigh Burden, assistant superintendent for business and financial services, presented a memo to School Board members about some challenges the school system may see financially in fiscal 2015.
In mid-December, Hatrick published a letter again outlining concerns about funding.
He forecast Jan. 7 that if the schools are not properly funded a number of full-time equivalent positions could be eliminated.
“The fiscal 2015 Superintendent's Proposed Budget has a gap in local funding of $84.5 million compared to the best case preliminary estimate of local funding by the county, which shows the increase in local funding to LCPS at $3 million,” Hatrick said. “Should it be decided that funding the schools is not possible, the staffing in LCPS schools that is not mandated by the Commonwealth could be eliminated.”
Hatrick outlined an elimination of almost 624 positions in elementary schools, 153 in middle schools and 73 positions in high schools for a total savings of more than $63 million. That number would still leave a significant gap to make up.
Those jobs included technology-related positions, special education positions, librarians, teachers, administrators and other personnel.
“My role as superintendent is to establish a needs-based budget that identifies what is needed now to ensure the future of our young people,” Hatrick said. “The primary fiscal 2015 budget changes can be attributed to compensation, student growth and technology.”
According to Hatrick's proposal, those three changes account for $80.7 million of a total $108.7 million in proposed expenditure changes alone.
Of that total, employee compensation accounts for $31.9 million. Hatrick went on to say that almost 90 percent of the budget goes to funding salaries and benefits.
Hatrick compared the salaries of neighboring school districts for teachers with Masters Degrees.
“We all start out in about the same place, but we lose ground quickly from the second year on and do not compare favorably. In some cases, Fairfax pays as much as $6,000 to $7,000 more than we do for the same experience level,” Hatrick said. “This hurts LCPS in recruiting experienced teachers. We have wanted to address the 'sag' for a couple of years now, but haven't had the resources to do so.”
To provide an example, Hatrick mentioned that Loudoun pays a teacher with nine years of experience a little more than $3,000 more per year than a first year teacher. At nine years, Loudoun has the lowest teacher's pay in the 10 jurisdictions making up the D.C. Metro area.
“Compensation is a division-wide priority in this years budget,” Hatrick said.
As a result, Hatrick proposed a new salary scale for teachers and administrators making salaries competitive, affordable and sustainable, he said.
Issues were found last year with the salary scale when an Evergreen consultant made a full-parity proposal with a price-tag of $54 million. Hatrick's proposed pay scale increase should cost $32 million in its first year.
The new teacher, classified and administrative salary scale keeps steps 1-3 flat with a 5 percent increase in step 4.
A projected enrollment next school year of more than 73,200 students shows a growth increase of 29 percent or 16,000 students over the last seven years.
“New students mean more school buildings and the number of school buildings during this time period has gone from 75 to 87,” Hatrick said.
Technological discrepancies have been a major vocal point over the last several months.
Hatrick said, “The reduction of technology funding over the past few years has resulted in an increase in tech funding in fiscal 2015 of $13.1 million.”
The increase can be tied to an update in computer maintenance, a computer refresh for 47 schools, an upgrade in bandwidth and network equipment, software upgrades and a completion of bus radio replacement and initiation of a safety radio in 17 schools.
Hatrick also hopes to issue a bond referendum in November 2014 to address the 1-to-1 initiative.
“We would provide devices to the teachers at all schools in the first year. Secondary schools in the second year and fourth and fifth graders at the elementary schools in the third year,” Hatrick said. “The total amount of resources needed for full implementation is slightly over $37 million.”
Hatrick closed his proposal with words of encouragement to all policy makers.
“The purpose behind it is to best serve the children of Loudoun County. If in the coming weeks we can concentrate on that, then we will arrive at a final budget that is fair to all Loudoun's citizens,” He said. “What I would strive for in the coming deliberations is consensus; the realization that no one will come away with their ideal result.”