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School Board lashes out after unorthodox supervisor request for ‘chop list’

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.”


Unfortunately “Mom of 4 in Ashburn”,
if you want all that for your schools, you will be branded a communist by most of the commenters on this site.

I don’t think our school system is failing, but I have seen significant decline in the last 7 years. If the students’ scores are still good, it is because hyper-competitive parents are helping out and we have lots of super bright kids in the county.

I don’t think it is a matter of having to live within a super-slim budget. Seriously, we live in the richest county in the U.S. I WANT to have a school system that provides good instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic.  I also want the schools to offer music, athletics, and art. I am fine with raising real estate taxes to do it, too, although I prefer a restaurant tax.

I think the school budget needs to be funded. If the BoS can’t make our schools a priority, then I, at least, will be voting for replacements.

Good Post Enuf. It starts with BOS and rubber stamping every development for additional housing. Loudoun will never attract big businesses because of our tax rate, traffic and poor planning(and that we get very little in return from Richmond).....

We’ve been thru this before….when Tulloch and his group tried to strong arm the school board.  I remember well the Guerin’s reaction when the school board decided maybe it should cut all the extra support given to the elementary schools in Sterling since they were costing more money than other elementary schools.  Lots of backpeddling by the BOS when they realized just what was going to be cut in their own areas.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out again. And yes the BOS needs to walk the talk and stop approving anymore rezonings for the rest of their term…..give this county a chance to breath.  Since the rezonings never have to be reviewed they can sit for years before actually happening and then the county suffers in the future (as we are now).  You don’t want to fund the school budget…stop dumping kids in the school district’s lap and for goodness sakes stop buying the most expensive land you can (Lansdowne High School will cost way more than necessary because of the crappy land deal). 

@Frank, If you want more money spent per kid, then move to DC… I hear their schools are doing great. Another the sky is falling from LCPS, school board, PTO moms, Teachers, Dr Hatrick and various parents with mostly young kids…NewFlash, Loudoun county kids are doing great, in fact they beat out Fairfax if you remove Thomas Jefferson score from Fairfax. And we do it spending less per kid…I bet it’s because we have parents that get involved. Study with their kids, show up at schools and pitch in to help. I’ve donated many hours and money to the schools in Ashburn.

Both have done a poor job. BOS allowed way too many housing developments over very little land. School Board doesn’t cut enough, such as small schools, allow smart boards in every classroom, half empty buses, 3 deans at every MS, Too many chiefs, small HS being built, don’t outsource enough jobs and combine some groups with county govt(like planning committee). Instead, they blame the High cost on sports, music and art…. Both, BOS and School Board need to grow a pair. Please resign if you can’t do the job you were elected to do. And I’m tired of the school board, teachers and Dr Hatrick tell us the kids will do worse(sky is always falling come LCPS budget time, 20+ years I’ve been hearing the same thing).....

I think Everett has proved that he needs to move to West Virginia, where they value poorly funded education as much as he does.

Go ahead and cut sports, then see what side of funding the county residents are on.

Too bad the supervisors dont value education as they do unbuilt minor league baseball stadiums.

Where are the Hounds anyway?

It’s Scott York and the county’s cheapskates versus the School Board and the county’s children. Whose side are you on?

I notice they never mention cutting out those small schools in Loudoun, or the 3 deans at every MS, or outsourcing, or better use of transportation or combining planning group with Loudoun County…Makes too much sense… Instead they attack the HS kids and parents. I’m not a fan of the BOS, but School board has to do a better job, they’re failing Loudoun taxpayers too.

I applaud Ms. Sheridan for openly declaring that her proposed “cuts” were to get the public’s attention. Supervisors are understandably frustrated annually at wanting to fund worthwhile programs, while being given no choice over where the school allocation actually goes. But, as my friend John Stevens explained when I was a supervisor and he was on the school board, “If you want a line-item veto on the school budget, run for the school board.”

It’s not the board of supervisors’ place to make choices about which programs LCPS keeps and which it cuts. That’s why we _have_ a separately elected school board. Scott York wasn’t elected to allocate funds within LCPS on a program-by-program basis: Brenda Sheridan and her board-mates were.

The BOS should decide how much Loudoun county’s taxpayers can afford for their school system. After that, it’s the school board’s job to decide how that money will be spent and what, if anything, will be cut.

Good to hear Scott York stepped up to the plate. There should be a “chop list” A good house cleaning is in order! Although, I would be surprised if anything was done about it.

In my household I will make up a list of let’s say 20 things I need from the grocery store. I will bring a crisp $100 bill with me. No usage of debit or credit. Once the self-checkout comes at around $99 and I have a few items that I cannot fit in this $100 budget I will start putting uncessary items (things I can live without for the week). Basically, things I like to have but don’t necessarily need.

My point is the school system should do the same. Have a list of programs that are a must (akin to bread,milk, water) and programs that can go (akin to ice cream, candy, chips).

My, my, how things have changed.  It used to be that schools emphasized the three “r’s”:  reading, writing and arithmetic.  In the new age, that has gone out the window, and now the emphasis is “music, athletics and art.”  What progress!  Maybe, our future will be one of fleet of feet artists humming tunes.  Certainly, it would appear, not engineers, scientists, and tech wizards.  At least, not in Loudoun County.

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