The fiscal 2015 budget process is, as expected, heating up between the School Board and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
The two governing bodies of Loudoun County will meet Feb.18 for what promises to be an interesting joint meeting on the fiscal 2015 budget.
At the meeting, the School Board will present their fiscal 2015 operating budget to the supervisors. The School Board unanimously passed its adopted budget Feb. 5.
Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors stirred the pot Feb. 7 by sending a letter requesting the School Board either provide either a "compliance budget" or a cut list for the supervisors consideration.
School Board members, who were visibly frustrated with the chairman's letter, one-by-one pointed out reasons the budget they previously adopted best serves the needs of the county.
School Board member Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) was the first to give her thoughts on the letter, and she didn't mince words.
“When I read the letter from Chairman York, I was discouraged. It appears to me to be an attempt by the Board of Supervisors to determine, by asking the School Board for a chop list, whether or not our budget choices were important,” Sheridan said. “Keep in mind with the exception of two or three emails, there has been overwhelming support for the full funding of the LCPS budget, even with a tax increase.”
In an effort to arouse input from the public, Sheridan went on to identify three major programs – music, athletics and art – as potential cuts for the budget.
Sheridan chose the three highly popular programs because they were the top three programs the community highlighted in January's Community Budget Priorities Survey.
These programs were cited by Sheridan only to grab the attention of the community.
“With [the] full recognition that certain topics grab the attention of the public I am going to say everything is on the chopping block and at risk,” Sheridan said. “I do not support cutting anything from the unanimously adopted School Board budget. I object to creating a chop list that will give our authority to decide during reconciliation with thoughtful deliberation and public input over to the Board of Supervisors. I am simply stating those three words with the simple purpose of getting your attention. Speak up. Speak loudly and be clear whatever your position is.”
All across the dais, School Board members agreed the letter was unwarranted.
Vice Chair Jill Turgeon said it is frustrating for the board, pointing out the School Board could be considered as the “voodoo doll” of Loudoun County, because regardless what they say or do, there is always a group of people upset at each decision.
School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) did not want to provide the supervisors with an in depth cut list, but he noted they needed to respond somehow, because in the end, if they don't, the supervisors could use that decision against them during deliberations.
School Board member Bill Fox simply stated, “This isn't how things are done. We have done our work. We have presented a budget we feel is efficient and reflects the community priorities we have been hearing both in surveys and in comments and emails and phone calls, so now we are passing it on.”
Fox, along with Debbie Rose (Algonkian), both noted cuts may need to be made in the end, but neither agreed with sending a cut list to the Supervisors at this point in the process.
There is currently a gap in funding between the School Board's adopted budget and the county's proposed budget of approximately $39 million.
“It is not our job to give them a shopping list [of] what we think is not important in our budget or what we think we can do without,” Fox said. “If they are hearing this overwhelming 'keep the tax rate down', I am wondering [where those people] are. I have gotten, like, three emails from these folks. Nobody wants to pay a lot of taxes. I hate taxes. But if this is what my constituents want [to keep the tax rate low], c'mon guys, I would like to hear from you. I haven't heard any of that.”