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Superintendent makes case for $1.1 billion budget to supervisors

The Board of Supervisors and the Loudoun School Board gathered Wednesday to hear details of the school system's adopted fiscal 2018 budget of $1.124 billion.

LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams laid out the school system’s needs for the upcoming year in what will likely be its only operations co-meeting with supervisors before the county budget is adopted.

The meeting came as LCPS and county government are grappling with growth, development and school overcrowding.

Both entities are in the midst of trying to match their budgets to keep up with more residents, while at the same time a need for more employees and paying them in line with surrounding jurisdictions.

Williams said LCPS is seeing “continued and persistent enrollment growth” of around 3 or 4 percent, or about 3,000 students. The coming year's budget accounts for more than 300 new positions.

The superintendent outlined four key areas where LCPS needs the most support.

The most critical was enrollment growth. With new schools coming online, Williams said they would need to hire new teachers and staff.

He also explained that with higher enrollment numbers, LCPS has seen a “greater rate of growth among certain groups of students,” including English language learners, low income and special education students, which, in turn, drive up costs for more teachers and aides.

Salaries and benefits was another key component of LCPS’ budget. Williams talked about the need to hire quality teachers with high level degrees and be able to pay them accordingly.

The superintendent said often times LCPS loses highly qualified teachers to neighboring counties like Fairfax and Prince William that offer higher salaries. He also said the school system needed to increase hours and pay for its bus drivers.

Additionally, Williams stressed the need for enhancements, restorations and reallocations of funds, particularly for new positions that would work on mental health support as well as operations and maintenance expenditures.

But with competing needs in mind, supervisors questioned the school administration’s costs.

The board’s finance committee chiarman, Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), said that county government is also facing issues around salaries and compensation.

“While the school system has been improving, the county employees really haven’t, and so I think many of us on our side are pretty concerned about that,” Letourneau said.

The Dulles supervisor noted that 77 percent of LCPS employees are able to live in Loudoun, while only 29 percent of fire and rescue employees can afford to do so.

“That’s something we’re going to have a to address on our side, which could certainly have an impact on the school budgets in future years as we address the same type of critical need and turnover rates and things like that that you all are saying,” Letourneau said.

Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said she has spoken to teachers who have voiced concern about the lack of textbooks and sufficient copy machines to essentially make their own textbooks.

She pressed the School Board on whether its budget would take care of those issues.

Williams said LCPS would likely only be able to provide more copiers and not textbooks. The superintendent said getting more textbooks would be part of a “multi-year process.”

Last week, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet proposed a $2.5 billion county budget for fiscal 2018, a spending plan based on the board’s guidance to present a budget at the estimated equalized real property tax rate of $1.135 per $100 in assessed value.

In that budget, the gap between the school system’s budget request and projected county funds stands at about $3.5 million short of the school system’s ask -- the smallest it has been in years. The school systems is relying on an allocation of nearly $760 million in county funds from the Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors will hold three public hearings on the proposed fiscal 2018 budget: Feb. 28 at 6 p.m., Board Room, Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison Street, S.E., Leesburg; March 2 at 3 p.m., Board Room, Loudoun County Government Center; and March 4, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, 21000 Education Court, Ashburn.

Supervisors are expected to finalize the budget in early April.

Comments


Given the impact to property tax this issue should get a thorough analysis including pretty hefty variables Dr. Williams ignored:
1 “NONE” of our Legislators (both parties) nor our BOS have apparently even tried to modify the composite index which extracts well over $200,000,000 per year from what Loudoun should get as state support from sales tax revenues.

2 The whole idea of expert teachers demanding new $300 textbooks is a reuse. Our teachers should have intellectual property rights to their lesson plans and LCPS should make every effort to support the sale of such material to the other 10’s of thousands of counties in the USA giving the teachers continuing residual income for their effort. Why should our best teachers be held hostage to a salary scale when they provide value which is NOT OWNED by the textbook publishers!
3 New buses and new drivers should NEVER be approved until the school system publishes their metrics for student distribution including minimum loading statistics, time of day loading etc for every route. When I had this study done when on the board well over 200 routes had less than 10% utilization with many buses running with only a handful of students.
4 The budget approval should include a REQUIREMENT that all contracts, operating and capital expenditures over $25K be competed with a written financial analysis to justify which is not done now.
5 The top of the LCPS salary scale is ABOVE Fairfax so an honest assessment to make sure we match Fairfax would be to lower the top two scales.
6 Finally a more honest way of comparing salaries is to publish what it is per hour not per year and include that the raise teachers get is also applied to staff and executives who never teach and in some cases only manage a couple of employees.
Bob O__ Esq.


Lower the school budget and the tax rate 17% over 2 years is much to much even over 5 years it’s to much, yikes!


This LCPS budget request is ridiculous. The county has done a very good job of increasing the business tax base. That does not mean taxpayer money should be wasted on LCPS. It appears that’s what the BOS is about to do.

1. Montgomery County has a 2.2% increase in student enrollment in FY18 but plan to spend just 2.5% more on their schools (0.3% per pupil increase). Meanwhile, LCPS is spending a whopping 9.3% more despite only having a 3.8% enrollment growth (5.5% per pupil increase).

2. Since 2014, LCPS’ per pupil costs have risen by an average of 4.4% per year! That’s over and above enrollment growth. Inflation during that period is about 1% per year. Since 2011, per pupil spending has increased overall by 28% in just 7 years.

2. According to LCPS’ own audited statements, there was $14.5M/$24.5M/$34.5M in unspent funds in LCPS budgets in FY14-FY16. These budgets are knowingly inflated. So why in the world would the BOS give them $93M more over and above the previous budgets that were inflated by $30M+?! The BOS should immediately cut the LCPS budget request by $35M (amount of unspent funds in recent years) and return it to the taxpayers before even considering an increase in funding.

3. LCPS admitted (after years of claiming its employees were leaving for Fairfax) that less than 20 teachers total left in FY16 for Fairfax (many times more transferred from Fairfax to Loudoun). And LCPS has the highest retention rate in the region. So why does the BOS need to provide $10M+ in funds over and above step increases for salary scale adjustments?! Our county can’t fill its public safety positions because of competitive conditions. Meanwhile, LCPS is flooded with applicants. So why is the BOS throwing $93M more toward LCPS?

4. 4 out of 9 school board members are voting their spouses an exorbitant raise. A special prosecutor ordered these school board members to stop violating Virginia’s conflict of interest laws or else they would be prosecuted. More investigations are ongoing. Why is the BOS throwing taxpayer money at school board members for their personal gain?

As the size of an organization grows, overhead as a percentage of costs should fall. Yet with LCPS, overhead is growing. Why? LCPS has ~1/2 as many FRL and ESL students as neighboring Prince William and Fairfax.

There is absolutely no reason to give a 9.3% increase in funding for 3.8% more kids. Tell your supervisors to return taxpayer money to taxpayers. Just because more business tax revenue was generated doesn’t mean hard-earned residential taxpayer $$ should be wasted.

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