The Loudoun County Public Schools budget process is over for this year, after the School Board passed the superintendent's recommended reconciliation – with a few amendments.
The School Board passed the $843.67 million reconciled operating budget for fiscal 2014 at a special meeting April 29 in Ashburn. The board was required to cut more than $16 million after a reduced allocation of tax spending from the Loudoun Board of Supervisors.
While the School Board passed the budget, they did so begrudgingly, upset that they were limited to a 2.5 percent spending increase despite a 3.8 percent enrollment increase and equally peeved at what they felt was a lack a community support for the schools.
“Over this boundary decision we have upwards of 450 speakers. We had 34 speakers in front of the Board of Supervisors to speak on behalf of our budget. I think that's horrible,” Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) said at the April 23 School Board meeting. “I'm angry with the Board of Supervisors but I'm asking the Loudoun County community where were you?”
Sheridan also called out the Board of Supervisors, including Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) and Scott York (R-At large).
“Mr. Delgaudio and Chairman York, you live in Sterling and claim to represent Sterling. Well, shame on you, because you did not,” Sheridan said.
While the School Board largely kept Superintendent Edgar Hatrick's recommendations, they made a few modifications, including re-allocating money for the 10 new kindergarten positions to bring full-time kindergarten teachers to Title I (low-income) schools.
“These are our neediest students and I support getting them what they need to be successful in the classroom,” Sheridan said.
All of the four Title I schools lie at least partly in Sheridan's Sterling District.
To support the full-day kindergarten program, the board cut an additional $550,000 for special transportation, which includes field trips and athletic transport. In total they cut nearly $1.6 million from special transportation.
Additionally, the board voted to reinstate 16.5 full-time equivalency positions cut by Hatrick in his recommended plan. This includes 10 English Language Learners teaching assistants. To support this motion, the board instead cut $631,232 from the School Support Services Department, which includes construction, food services and safety.
Debbie Rose (Algonkian) proposed to end membership in the National School Board Association and move the $9,300 membership fee to the School Support Services Department. The measure passed 7-2, with Thomas Reed (At-large) and Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) opposed.
While the School Board declined Hatrick's recommendation to reduce the Middleburg and Hillsboro elementary school staffing by having the two small schools share a technology assistant and clinic assistant, the two facilities were essentially put on notice.
“The time has come to look at this issue,” Hatrick said. “Hillsboro and Middleburg each have less than 60 students enrolled in grades K through five. We're going to reach a point where a school is no longer financially viable or instructionally [sic] viable.”
Jeff Morse (Dulles) echoed Hatrick's statement and hopes the schools will find some sort of a charter model in order to keep themselves open.
“I reluctantly support keeping staff there,” Morse said. “I do not support keeping these schools open.”
Amid fears that transportation cuts would prevent athletic teams from traveling to competition, Bill Fox (Leesburg) proposed a contentious motion to eliminate freshman sports.
“In the future, if it comes to choosing between educational programs and something like freshman sports, yeah, I'm going to pick educational programs every time,” Fox said.
The measure was defeated 5-4, with Fox, Morse, Sheridan and Turgeon supporting it.