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    Loudoun County administrator’s budget proposal leaves nearly $40M gap for school funding

    As directed by his bosses, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet proposed a fiscal 2015 budget Wednesday night that falls tens of millions of dollars short of what Loudoun County Public Schools are expected to request in county allocations.

    Mr. Hemstreet's nearly $2 billion budget submission leaves a funding gap of approximately $35-$40 million from LCPS Superintendent Dr. Edgar Hatrick's budget proposal, according to Dr. Hatrick, who was in attendance for the opening of Wednesday night's meeting.

    The Loudoun County School Board has yet to officially adopt its budget, but is scheduled to do so Wednesday night. It's unclear whether the School Board will fully grant Dr. Hatrick's budget request. Regardless, a substantial funding shortfall between the county administrator's proposal and the School Board's soon-to-be-adopted budget is expected.

    Mr. Hemstreet's proposed budget carries an “equalized tax rate” of $1.155 per $100 in assessed property value. An equalized rate is that which leaves the average homeowner's property tax bill level. For the current fiscal year, which runs through June, the tax rate was 1.205 per $100.

    Because of increased revenues and property values over the past year, the local transfer to the county's schools would increase by more than $45 million within Mr. Hemstreet's budget.

    Dr. Hatrick believes a roughly $100 million allocation increase from the county is necessary to fund what he has said are critical technology improvements, facility upgrades and increased pay for teachers.

    According to the county's public information office, Mr. Hemstreet's proposed fiscal 15 fiscal plan follows the supervisors' guidance and continues to include two cents within the advertised real property tax rate to fund high priority transportation infrastructure projects.

    “I believe the plan I am presenting today reflects the board’s commitment to providing quality services through open, accountable, efficient and responsive government,” Mr. Hemstreet said.

    Loudoun's economic standing remains vibrant, the county administrator noted. Real property values increase more than 8 percent from January 2013 to January 2014, and the county's unemployment rate or 2013 averaged 4 percent through November, well below the nearly 7.4 percent national average.

    Concerning capital projects, Mr. Hemstreet's budget includes nearly $320 million for the fiscal 2015 capital improvement program – roughly $200 million for general government projects and $120 million for public schools.

    “The largest expenditure category is transportation infrastructure at $126.5 million, which includes $40 million for Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit; $80.3 million for roads; and $6.2 million for transit buses and facilities,” according to a county-provided overview of the proposed budget. “Of the $121 million in school projects, $35 million is for the development of Dulles North Elementary School, 53.5 million for the development of Dulles North Middle School, $6 million in design funding for the Advanced Technology Academy, and $26.5 million for the renovation of Broad Run High School.”


    This story has been updated from an earlier version.

    Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


    Comments

    Stadium funded by, drum roll please—private funding and 0 taxpayer dollars.
    Unemployment down.
    Property values up.
    The BoS gets blamed for everything else so let’s blame them for, drum roll please—good governance!


    Those working in technology will use the saying, “a fool with a tool is still a fool”. I’m not saying that the teachers are fools, but you get the point (hopefully). I prefer learning from a teacher who effectively lectures on-topic in front of a podium with the help of a chalkboard and pointer rather than a teacher who, despite the help of a Promethean board, computer, and projector, fails to educate students in a way that thoroughly and logically covers all material. (By the way, I am saying this from experience - both ways.)


    After seeing all the comments below, instead of writing a long post of my opinion (which is to do what it takes to fund the schools), let me just add some thoughts:

    - More business: I always find it funny when people, leadership, etc all want “more business” in loudoun so that we get more money from them and we don’t have to drive as far. Why? I DON’T WANT TO WORK WHERE I LIVE. If I did, I would live in Reston or closer to the city. It’s called a burb for a reason. Stop trying to make Loudoun = New Jersey.

    - Taxes: They are high. Yup. Richest county in the nation as mentioned. Yup. Maybe if you have lived here more than 30 years you have an argument. If not, you should have read the tax history more carefully before buying your property. It’s not like it was low and now it is a surprise it was high.

    - Smart boards/tech: It is a race. Hate the game, not the players. I want my kids to have any tech they can. Why is google killing so many other businesses? Because they innovate. How do they do that? By “playing” with tech constantly and becoming familar with it. Should it be the only thing? No. It is the way life is now. I’m sure that people bitched about having overhead projectors in the 60s when a big pad of paper on the wall was ok. You are leading or following, we need to lead.

    - Costs: Everyone has the solution. 20% less. Just use regular textbooks and not Ipads. Well, ever consider what it costs to store, replace, climate control in the summer, update, etc the textbooks? Think economies of scale here. “We need a big school that has everyone in it so less schools.” There is a logistical target that it becomes unreasonable to handle so many students in one place. Lunches would take hours to complete. The annoucements in the morning would take more time. The cars and busses for dropping off kids would stretch for miles. “We don’t need 3 deans in school!” Well, the deans are basically for discipline problems. They have so many kids in the schools now that the deans are basically meeting with a kid every moment of the day. I’m sure if some kid got out of control everyone would be crying “where was the discipline in the schools!”

    Bottom line: everyone should be thinking about both sides of the issue and of their suggestions. If what you are thinking of sounds so easy to do then it is probably too good to be true.


    @Frank, Still waiting to hear about those big HS Loudoun is building???? I’ve agreed with you and many others the BOS(current and Past) screwed the Loudoun taxpayers. They all deserve jail time. The school Board and LCPS planning group has failed Loudoun taxpayers too, by building small HS. In 3-4 years, Ashburn will need another HS. 6 HS in a matter of 15-20 miles seems like poor planning. Had they built larger HS, say 2400 capacity(like Fairfax), we’d have 1 less HS to pay for and maintain. That money could go toward raises and cut back tax rate.

    And Frank, you can always give the county more tax money….I suspect you work at the Tahj Mahal as one of the many chief positions that should be cut. Loudoun has a third the number student as Fairfax but the same number of chiefs.


    Technology may be what everyone thinks is good to invest in, but what the county really should invest in is TEACHER TRAINING. At the high school level, a good, solid teaching method that’s common among most (if not all teachers) is what would benefit the students most. Yet nobody thinks about it. They’re all working on “how can we make our schools better and keep up with everyone else?”. Yes, renovations and buildings are necessary, but investing in teacher training is the most important. Another thing I noticed is how high school teachers try to cater to students’ tastes. While it may seem interesting, a good, solid traditional approach to academics is what will give students stability throughout all four years of high school, no matter what LCPS school they transfer in/out of.


    Everett,
    I agree developments need to slow down.  They arent and the supervisors think they can sell schools short because they cant stop saying yes to their coffers in the development industry.

    In the early 2000’s the whole board was voted out because of corruption with developers.  History is repeating itself.

    If we want our assessments to keep going up, Loudoun needs good schools and jobs IN county.  The board is helping with neither.


    more cowbell,
    The administrative costs thing is overblown.

    Have you run a school with 1800 kids?  Do you think that is an easy thing that 1 person can run. 

    I would not trust combining anything with the Loudoun Government, seeing that they are at the feet of developers.  Loudoun has some of the lowest spending per student in the DC area. 

    Why can Loudoun strive for the best?  Why do we have to be bitter at school administrators who make more than us?  Just because someone works for a public agency doesnt mean they should make minimum wage.

    All of this is what the supervisors feed you so they can keep building baseball stadiums and giving tax breaks to Dan Snyder. 

    Look who the top campaign donations are for our Board of Supervisors… its developers.

    Like I keep saying, Loudoun cant keep up with the amount of students being added.  And they want to cut the budget?  Any projections would be off with every new development added.


    Grimes,
    I would be okay if all residential development would be stopped (i.e. no more projects approved) let’s say for a few more years until 1) metro is built to Dulles/Ashburn and 2) until we get a handle on the school system.

    With that being said, I would be okay with a one time “house cleaning” of 20%.

    I do not have a child in the LCPS system, but I WILL in 1.50 more years. The school he goes to does not have to be top tier as long as they teach him the basics (English, Math, and Science). Most would probably disagree with my logic, but the school system I went to growing up (CA) was atrocious. So any of the schools here seem top tier in my eyes. So like most things in life it is all relative. I am tired of people saying “we richest county, we deserve top schools” No county deserves anything you have to work for it.

    BTW, I received my real estate assessment this weekend. 16K increase in assessment (building portion solely increased with land being unchanged). If the rate stays the same from prior year I look at a $200 increase for the current year!!! I have heard a PROPOSED rate of $1.155 per $100 which would keep the bill flat from prior year. So we shall see what happens.


    @Frank, What Giant HS are you posting about? The two new HS are the same size as the last 3-4 built in Loudoun, capacity 1800.

    Frank, why does LCPS keep open small schools? Why does the middle school need 3 deans and 3 principals? Why can’t the LCPS planning committe be combined with Loudoun county govt? Why do we have so many chiefs?

    Broad Run is one of the older HS in Loudoun and smaller(1400 capacity, not counting trailers). The other 4 in Ashburn(2 new HS, SB is about 12-13 years old, BW is about 6-7). Brambleton will probably need an addition HS in 3-5 years, which will give Ashburn 6 HS.

    Frank, if you take TJ out of fairfax, Loudoun students probably do better than the rest of fairfax and spends less per student….DC spends more and we all know how poorly they do.


    Why dont you stop the spin and spreading the supervisor spin and just say what you really apparently think: I dont want to pay a penny more to improve our schools and dont care if the richest county does not have top schools in the country.

    Just keep re-electing Scott York and the rest of the board bc they wont raise your property taxes and they will keep approving development after development of hundreds of new homes.

    Somehow you will blame all of this on the school system.


    Everett,
    Also, I mention the baseball stadium because that team and stadium were promised two years ago.  Two years.  They said last year that the stadium would be done by this spring.

    You seem to cut the Board of Supervisors far more slack than you do the school system.

    The Supervisors sure got that project done when their donors wanted it done.

    They have you trained like a Loudoun Hound to buy into their spin on cutting school budgets.


    Everett,
    Why not build one high school for 10 thousand students? 
    I dont think you have visited high schools or have children in schools to come to these rationalizations.  They are not prisons.  I would like you see you handle 3000 teenagers on a given day. 

    Of course the school system wants more money- they have more students coming to Loudoun then they can keep up with.  They schools are at capacity after being built because they cant build the school fast enough for the numbers of house being built. 
    Loudoun pays for all of the people who work in Fairfax but send their kids to school here.

    You dont seem to see the whole “too many houses being built for not enough schools” aspect of the argument.

    The actual statistics show that Loudoun schools do not keep up with the rest of the DC area.  Look at the top schools in the country and you will see Fairfax schools, Montgomery county schools.  Not Loudoun.  Sure we are better than Southeast DC schools, but lets set the bar higher in the richest county in the country. 

    You say the kids “seem to do just fine” but that is just a random guess.  You blame administrative costs but that is a minuscule amount of the total amount needed for schools.

    If we had more actual jobs and businesses here in Loudoun and not have every Loudoun worker commute somewhere else than maybe you wouldnt have to pay 50 more dollars a year in property taxes, but the Supervisors are simply not doing their job.

    And there are new giant high schools built recently in Loudoun.  And while we write on this comment section, more houses are built at One Loudoun, off Fort Evans, off RT 15.  You could build plywood houses and townhouses faster than you can high schools and elementary schools.


    I agree there is no reason why the schools should be overcrowded and using trailers.  We always hear the projected future enrollment yet the schools being built are at capacity before construction is done.  They should be two and three levels, enough of these one level cookie cutter schools from the 80s.  Build higher and better utilize the land saving the taxpayers from costly additions and trailers in the future.  Wait that makes to much sense


    MoPar19- The schools are NOT getting a 20% cut. I simply suggested that they should cut 20%. Yes, I agree more money is being requested for funding.

    Maybe someone can help me answer this question I have had for a while. Per More Cowbell there is 5 high schools in Ashburn. I will take a guess that majority of the 5 were built in last 10 years. Here is my question: Why can they just build a couple larger high schools (i.e. increase density by building up) rather than buy 5 separate parcels of land and have in some cases duplicate overhead ? Land is not cheap, and they could have made better use of it. Yes, it would be an inconvenience to have parents drive across town rather than a “neighborhood” high school but imagine the savings. Yes certain things could not be “built up” such as athletic fields, but I see no issue having a HS with 3,000 kids AS long as the classroom sizes are average (whatever is considered average)and that can be achieved through taller buildings. Yes there would be more upront cost on the initial HS, but you would re-coup that in future years by not having to buy more land or extra overhead costs. This growth had to have been predcicted in the projections I would think ??


    Every year Dr Hatrick wants more money, been that way for 20+ years. yeah, BOS failed Loudoun(current and past). However, LCPS planning committee, Dr Hatrick and School Board should have built bigger HS. We now have 5 HS in Ashburn that average 1700 student vs Fairfax HS averaging 2400. We’re paying extra on overhead, support athletic fields and busing. Putting smart boards in every classroom was a waste of money decision. Keeping small schools open year after year costs too much money but seems to get the rubber stamp from both Dr Hatrick and School Board. Some LCPS jobs/roles/committees should be combined with Loudoun County….

    HS parents pay even a bigger share because of all the additional fees($200 to park at school, $100 for a sport, and an extra $500 for sport equipment/camp). Meanwhile, busses are half full(some buses only take 1-2 students, unsure why they don’t use vans???). Oh, and my taxes have gone up every year for those 20 years. Even this year, My building(house) stayed the same price as last year….My land went up $50K. So for 5 cents less, I’m still paying more and only have 1 kid in LCPS. I think there should be a cap on personal property taxes that goes towards schools….And parents should have to pay per kid in LCPS, say $1k/year. I agree, teachers should get a raise….And police, fire and other county workers….
    Meanwhile Loudoun county kids seem to do better than most in the DC area even though we’re led to believe we need to spend more per kid…...
    I suspect the kids do better because the parents are more involved with their kids and the schools.


    How do you come to the conclusion that the schools are getting a 20% cut?  If you read the article the schools are getting 45 million more dollars than last year! hatrick wants 100 million more than last year!  once again 80% of our tax dollars is going to the school system.  can anyone name another county agency or service getting 45 million more dollars for their budget?

    I have never seen a report that supports that the students in loudoun are getting a sub par education because of underfunding.


    Grimes,

    I worked for a company in the past that eliminated 10% of labor force and another 10% in operating expenses (less travel and negotiate a lower rent). So I know what it is like. The work still had to be done, so losing 10% of labor hurt. But the workaround was we opened an India office and those employees worked for about 1/3 the cost of those let go here in the USA (i.e. 100K versus 35K). We would send the work via secured online portals, and the work would be done as good as if it was in the USA.

    With my current company I have hired 2 people through linkedin.com and monster.com and have had great success so your argument is invalid about underestimating these online tools.

    However, in my current company our client base continues to grow, and my boss approached me on how we need more employees but cannot afford 100K + salaries. I told him what they did in my old company and he loved the idea and the plans are to open an India office with 10-12 employees. Most likely I will spearhead this project, and a bonus will come due !

    Please elaborate on this unbuilt stadium you keep referring to? Yes, it is unbuilt but as far as I know it is slated to open in next couple years despite the delays. Have you driven on the 7 freeway east bound? There are signs on the side of the development regarding the Loudoun Hounds and the soccer team. Stadiums take time to be built unlike let’s say a Starbucks or sandwich shop.


    Everett,
    Thanks for supporting my entire argument then going back to your failed logic.

    What if they cut 20% of the company you work for?
    What if Loudoun County high school teams cut 20% of the teams?
    What if they got rid of 20% of the teachers with the growing amount of kids?
    What if they cut salaries by 20%?

    20% is a lot when it comes to schools, money per student, and just in general.

    You argument about administrative costs in grossly exaggerated and is another thing the Supervisors use to get people to buy into their cuts.

    Do you want the best people working in Loudoun county, teaching our kids?  Or do you want a bunch of people from Monster.com leading our kids into the future.

    You agree thats its the supervisors fault- just leave it at that.  Its starts at the top of the county and that the BoS.

    Dont buy into their tricks or we will have more unbuilt baseball stadiums and poorer schools.


    Grimes,
    Digging into this a little deeper, yes, it is a BOS problem. I assume if future residential development requests were denied, we could finally get the schools funded fully. Yes, the school system would grow given that young ones (i.e less than school age) would eventually start going to school, AND couples will have kids, HOWEVER, it won’t be this out of control increase we have seen over the years that typically arises from newer residential developments.

    I also believe there is a problem where many people live in Loudoun, but have to go over 1 or two counties for work (myself included) that being Fairfax or even DC. This issue should be addressed although I don’t have any suggestions on how. Perhaps give employers incentives on moving to Loudoun ?

    I will stand by my point of current budget should be cut! There is way too much fat built in. Administrators do not need to be making close to 200K. I bet if you were to eliminate these people and post the job position on a job board (i.e. monster.com) you can find someone to do the job for 160K given this poor job economy. Does every classroom need a whiteboard? How many teacher aides are really needed?? Do we need every kid to take a bus to school (that cost money). Have a rule if you live within 1 mile of a school you walk ! Fat can be cut easily (20% is not much). 


    Everett,
    20% of the kids are not leaving the schools.  More kids are coming than the schools can even keep up with… and you blame the schools for this problem?

    This is a supervisor problem not a school problem.  All these supervisors do is give handouts to business cronies and build unnecessary unbuilt baseball fields.

    The supervisors know you will blame the schools and not them.  You are misinformed and part of the problem of the poor schools in this, the richest county in the country.


    Only one thing to blame for this and its not the schools:

    Blame the Supervisors for being in the pockets of developers.  Development after development approved without the jobs the county needs to support those new residents.

    We need a new high school every year just to keep up… and people want to CUT funding? 

    Its starts at the top and thats the Supervisors.

    Fund the schools or we can watch all of our jobs and best high schools continue to end up in Fairfax county.

    Loudoun is a joke when it comes to school funding- very low in the DC area. 

    If you want to cut the school budget, please move to another county so my children are not given pooer schools in the richest county in America, because of your greed and the supervisors endless homebuilding approval.


    7 years as a homeowner, and property taxes paid increase year over year. Granted some of the increases may be only $50/ year it is still an increase. This is for a modest townhouse FMV no more than 425K to date.

    I think many of us ( at least to those I have spoken to in person) are sick of being treated as an ATM by the county.

    I say cut the school budget spending by 20% from the prior year. For example, if the budget in prior year was 1B, decrease the budget in current year to 800M.

    I have cut my spending in my personal life due to decrease of income, and my wife going part time (not by choice) so why can’t the county cut spending????

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