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Loudoun parents urge board to fully fund LCPS; supervisors wary of tax hike

Loudoun's Board of Supervisors has yet to receive a fiscal 2015 budget from Loudoun County Public Schools for funding consideration, yet high expectations have been set and a perilous future predicted by local parents fed up with what they believe are under-funded schools.

Given the financial realities of the county – including increased home values and an all-Republican board that's hell-bent on keeping property taxes level – those parents should be prepared for their hopes of a cash-infused school system to be dashed.

The 2015 budget proposed by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edgar Hatrick in early January came in at $952 million, a spending plan expected to leave a nearly $60 million shortfall from the county allocation, according to the most recent revenue projections.

If the county's supervisors were to sign off on full funding for Dr. Hatrick's budget, the local tax rate would have to be set at $1.23 per $100 in assessed home value, according to Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), chairman of the board's finance committee.

A $1.23 rate seems extraordinarily unlikely from the all-Republican board, especially considering the current year's rate of $1.205 per $100.

Moreover, just to keep taxes steady – to hit the “equalized” rate – the county will have to drop to a rate of $1.155 based on current projections, Buona said.

Dr. Hatrick's budget each year is typically a starting point for the Loudoun County School Board, which then adjusts and finalizes the document and then sends it to the Board of Supervisors.

The School Board is expected to finalize the LCPS budget by the end of January. Supervisors will then scrutinize the plan and determine how much local funding the county will allocate to the schools. That amount won't likely be finalized until March, or early April at the latest.

Comments from supervisors during a Jan. 15 business meeting were less than accommodating to Dr. Hatrick and education advocates' requests.

Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run), the Board of Supervisors' vice chairman, was outspoken in defending his board's support for public schools.

“When I hear that we're cutting education, it is just not true,” Williams said. “I understand that we're not fully funding Dr. Hatrick's budget, but I don't think Dr. Hatrick would fund Dr. Hatrick's budget, frankly.”

According to Williams, in the past two budget years the LCPS budget has increased from nearly $746 million to $843.5 million. The local fund transfer from the county has spiked from $494 million to more than $553.5 million, a 12 percent increase.

“While it is true that a large portion of these budget increases was due to enrollment growth, the cost-per-pupil still rose from $11,014 to $11,638, a 5.7 percent increase,” Williams noted.

But Dr. Hatrick and dozens of other school proponents were quick to say those investments have been inadequate.

“Critical technological infrastructure and county and school employees have borne the brunt of budget decisions that focused primarily on tax rate,” said Dr. Hatrick.

Aimee Holloway, a 15-year Loudoun resident, mother and teacher assistant at LCPS, was one of several speakers who asked supervisors Jan. 15 to raise taxes.

“I want to ask you to raise the tax rate. Please fully fund our school system,” Ms. Holloway said. “… out of the six surrounding counties, the amount we spend per pupil, there's only one other county that's lower than ours. We're the wealthiest county in the nation – how is it that we're not spending more money on our children? They are our future.”

Still, several supervisors expressed their reluctance at full funding for LCPS.

“I don't know where you want us to go with taxes,” Supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) said following the flood of public comments Jan. 15. “We already have the highest taxes in Virginia.”

Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), meanwhile, implied the School Board hasn't made teacher pay a top priority.

“When we gave an additional $66 million to the schools, and it was clearly outlined that they needed $31 million to open the three new schools, it was amazing how nobody on the schools' side seemed to think about giving the teachers and other staff a raise out of the other $35 million,” Ms. Volpe said.

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Related: Editorial: A teaching and learning moment for the future of Loudoun schools


I agree Mopar.

should 80 percent of our tax dollars be going to schools?  yes teachers should be paid more, but what about every other county employee and county service?  its getting out of control with the spending… every year its catch up with more students, schools that are too small, and the threat of underfunding.  been a resident in eastern loudoun for 35 years and the scare tactics are getting old.

@Loudoun Resident, My kids moved to a different Elementary school, which I had donated money($1K) for their playground, yet the new school didn’t have a playground, how is that fair? And I was all set to give the HS money towards their turf field, however the corrupt school board decided newer communities should go to that school and bus the kids that have gone to that HS for 10 years, so I saved myself $1000. And my tax bill was $13500 last year. Only 1 kid in LCPS, my other is in college, which I’m paying(no studnet loans).

You should be blaming Dr Hatrick for not getting the extras, not Loudoun Taxpayers. At least every classroom has a smart board.

I Just got hit with an extra $64 per year tax (in addition to the $42.75 normal fee) to register my 6-year old hybrid car.  Stop always reaching for MY wallet, Virginia !

Thanks for the clarification Loudoun Resident.

Hopefully you’re not implying that the only solution is to tap more money from childless tax payers when many of us are already paying $4K and up.

The concept of incurring bills and having someone else pay them is confusing…especially when a huge expense is already being paid by the non parents.

Conversations like this make me less willing to contribute. If the non parents all left the county and sold our homes to families with 4 school aged children, imagine what would happen to the budget.

Pamper the golden goose.

I’d love to see property taxes lowered and make parents pay per kid. Make it $1000/kid.

@ John Matthews, “parents can send in any extra money they like to a special fund for education.” That is already happening. School PTAs and PTOs raise funds for all kinds of things, some of which are “extras” and some of which are things that the district typically would pay for but does not due to budget constraints.

In fact, parents paying for things has become an issue because the resources in the various schools are not the same. Some schools are able to have parents foot the bill for things but many others cannot, therefore leaving some schools behind when it comes to “extras” and even some important things. LED signs, playgrounds, and recess equipment are just a few of the items that are not included in district funding when new schools are built.

Thanks for the clarification on the “scoreboard-like LED signs” outside the schools.

Re funding, here’s an idea! Keep the school taxes as they are, I’ll continue paying $4000 per year (80% of my property taxes) for schools, and the parents can send in any extra money they like to a special fund for education. If they’re that committed to raising more money for THEIR children’s education, they should have no problem with this.

I’d love to see actual PARENTS of the students pay higher rates, per student, and for the nice LED signs outside the schools, electronic whiteboards, etc. Non parents? Not so much. I’m paying $4K per year for schools with no kids in them. Yes, education is important and I don’t mind paying, but enough is enough.

@K.Jimmerson, Unsure where you live, but my taxes have gone up every year and I’ve lived in Loudoun for 20+ years. Over the past 5 years, my taxes have gone up around $500+/year. 4 years ago, my house assessment went down 30K however they raised the land part by $80K for a net gain of $50k and this was during a horrible economy.

Horace, it’s true that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean better educated students. I totally agree there. However, due to the budgeting, the schools have been steadily losing some of the “extras” that were beneficial to our students and are now at a point where it isn’t a question of losing extras but of losing valuable programs and services. As a taxpayer I appreciate keeping taxes low but as a parent I believe it’s time to put a little more money toward our school system.

@Chris, You forgot to point out the elderly claim that huge savings in year 1. I’d like to see it changed to the elderly having to live and pay taxes for at least 10 years, just to be fair.
@mama mary. The problem with LCPS is all the wasteful spending. I agree, teachers should get a raise, however they could get rid of many support positions within LCPS, and stop putting smart boards in every classroom, just for starters. I still see buses half full, small HS being built and way too many chiefs in LCPS. Perhaps LCPS should go to a 4 day school week. And why does LCPS pay for marketing material that is mailed? Loudoun county kids are doing great because the parents are involved with the school and their kids.

In 2008 my property taxes was $859.00 more than in 2013. In 2011 my property tax was $462 more than in 2013. For the past 5 years my property taxes have fallen and the budget for the schools has been increased by amounts that barely cover the additional 2,500 new students each year and the new schools that keep having to be built. 

The No-Tax-Hike-for any Reason folks commandeered our Board of Supervisors and the BOS has pledged to them instead of all of us who benefit from public education.

My daughter’s smallest high school class has 32 students.  Her teacher says it is very difficult to give individual help/instruction.  I end up teaching my child at home because her teacher is sometimes stretched too thin and there are students “more needy” than her, therefore she receives hardly any individual instruction or help of any kind. This has been the case since elementary school.  These teachers have gotten minimal increases in pay and even pay cuts since they have to pay a higher share of their health care cost now. Unlike most jobs in the private sector, our teachers are held up to extreme public scrutiny and are pressured to have students perform on standardized testing. Teachers have students from all walks of life and home experiences and no two are alike and asking a teacher to get high performance out of every student is beyond comprehension. I would like to see how well our BOS members would perform in their private sector jobs if they were given variables to work with that they had no control over, equipment that broke down or was out of date, and tested on that performance every single year. 

Please make the right decision here.  We need to start investing in our teachers and children, instead of lowering standards and sending the wrong message to the community.  With 1/2 day Kindergarten, our students are not getting a headstart.  Parents are either going the private K, homeschool K, or public K route.  When kids find their way back to public whether it is in 1st or 2nd grade, the levels are so different.  Parents in Loudoun who have still not given up hope are struggling to supplement at home or send their kids to learning centers.  We have to get on the same page.  If the Board shows that they care enough to invest in our kids, that will send a positive message to the community.  We cannot continue down this path.  It isn’t fair to the teachers or the children.  We need to see change.  As a Loudoun County resident and taxpayer, please help.

“Raise the taxes push the elderly out of their homes that they have spent a lifetime paying for. Solution is quit letting the builders build all these million dollar homes…make them pay their share like everyone else!!”

What elderly are being pushed out, Grandma? (That’s really her screen name, I’m not being perjorative.)Loudoun county has perhaps the most generous elderly tax relief program anywhere. A 65+ resident can own up to three acres, earn up to $72,000 a year, have up to $440,000 in the bank, and get away scot-free from real estate taxes.

I don’t earn anywhere near that or have a bank account in that stratosphere, yet I just cut a check for nearly $2,500 to cover just six months of real estate taxes. Yes, somebody is not paying their fair share. But I don’t think it’s the builders and businesses.

Trevor - Uh, so what your saying is it’s an “... all Republican Board…”?  and party affiliation means what to this story?

It’s been proven time and time again that simply spending more does not mean better educated students.  If spending was the issue DC students would be the smartest in the world ... they are not.

You can always find someone to support something and finding someone who gets paid by the school system is hardly an unbiased voice.

“Still, several supervisors expressed their reluctance at full funding for LCPS”  Full funding? 

If I need $1,000 to do my job, but I ask for $2,000 because I think some additional program would be “neat” am I under funded?  Did the board not supply “full funding” for me to do my job?

And as the person who pays the taxes vs one who lives off the taxes of another’s labor, I FULLY appreciate having any board, “all Republican” or not, consider the impact on those who actually pay the bills.

Loudoun county is becoming more Fairfax everyday. Raise the taxes push the elderly out of their homes that they have spent a lifetime paying for. Solution is quit letting the builders build all these million dollar homes and quit giving all these new businesses tax breaks. Make them pay their share like everyone else!!

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