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With 10 days left before county budget adoption, Loudoun Education Assn. holds out hope

Loudoun Education Association President Joey Matthews responds to a reporter’s question at a press conference March 24 at the county government center in Leesburg. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser
Members of the Loudoun Education Association advanced a clear and direct message to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors March 24: Why hold public hearings on the county budget if you aren't going to listen to your constituents?

The inquiry comes after scores of Loudoun parents and education advocates addressed supervisors at recent public hearings to urge them to fully fund Loudoun County Public Schools' adopted budget. The public's endorsement for full funding of the school system has substantially surpassed the slim vocal support for not funding the LCPS spending plan.

Loudoun County's supervisors agreed March 20 to a fiscal 2015 budget that falls more than $35 million short of funding the LCPS budget. Supervisors signed off on funding as much of the school system's budget as possible without raising property taxes for the average homeowner.

The board will formally adopt the county's fiscal 2015 budget and school funding April 2.

“At open input sessions the public spoke at an incredible 8-to-1 margin in support of full funding,” Joey Mathews, president of the LEA, said during the March 24 press conference at the county government center. “Loudoun supervisors have admitted that they've heard from more voters in support of fully funding than for cutting it. So what's going on? Is the Board of Supervisors listening to their constituents? Apparently not.”

Mathews continued, “It appears that supervisors are putting their campaign pledges of tax cuts before the needs of our students and a growing school system, even as their constituents continue to flood their emails with support for full funding.”

Next year's LCPS spending plan totals $950 million, a more than $105 million enhancement from fiscal 2014.

Without an increase to the county's property tax rate, the school system will receive a nearly $70 million funding boost in fiscal 2015 compared to the current year because of expanding revenues, something supervisors have repeatedly highlighted.

“The Board of Supervisors continues to prioritize Loudoun’s public schools within the budget, evidenced by the 8.5 percent growth in local tax funding to LCPS while local tax funding to the general county government is only increasing by 2.1 percent,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) said in a prepared statement.

York's board went so far as to lay out how the School Board could distribute the $68.3 million LCPS increase included within the equalized tax rate of $1.155 per $100 in assessed value. In a county press release issued March 21, supervisors expressed support for the following enhancements within the school system's spending:

-$14.6 million for compensation increases;
-$7.1 million to fully fund requested class size reductions;
-$23.7 million for additional student population of 2,375 and the opening of three new schools;
-$5 million for technology initiatives with an emphasis on upgrading network infrastructure and refreshing computers;
-$1.6 million to fully fund the School Board’s new initiatives;
-$10.3 million for mandatory Virginia Retirement System contributions;
-$6.3 million for the projected 6 percent increase in healthcare costs;
-$100,000 for staff assistance for the School Board, similar to the legislative aides members of the Board of Supervisors have.

Voting against the March 20 proposal to increase the school system's funding were Supervisors Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge). Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg), who has expressed support for increasing the LCPS allocation, was absent from the meeting.

The LEA's Mathews maintains the $70 million increase to the schools is woefully short of what is needed to accommodate a growing student population, top-tier teachers and enhanced technology. He pointed out the School Board elected to run the school system passed the fiscal 2015 budget unanimously.

Mathews provided an analogy for how he views the supervisors approach to school funding.

"You've got a kid that's in college -- he was a freshman last year, this year he's a sophomore. His costs for books and tuition have gone up. They've gone up, let's say, $500. You give that child $300; you have given him more funding, but you have not met the needs of his education. Right now that's where this county is with the Board of Supervisors," Mathews said.

This story has been updated from an earlier version.

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Those who compare test scores and government spending on education in Loudoun with government spending on education in DC miss an important point: parents pay as much or more than the taxpayer for K-12 education in Loudoun. By excluding parental expenditures for sports, educational enrichment, test prep, music lessons, computers, broadband, transportation to events etc, taxpayers can falsely claim that money has no bearing in determining educational outcomes.

There may have been “slim vocal support” for not fully funding the school board’s requests, but ever heard of the “silent majority”?  Like, the majority of us whose incomes cover less and less these days with the rising cost of groceries and astronomical cost of gas under the lousy Obama economy.  Sure there are some wealthy people moving into Loudoun who can afford to pay more and are out there yelling for the rest of us to pay more.  I say let them give charitable gifts to the school system if they so desire ... leave the rest of us alone!

Hey Frank G.-

I didn’t know you were at the meeting. That’s a wishful sign your holding up. I doubt you will get your request…

Don’t forget we elected an all rebublican BOS. They “should be” cutting taxes. From what I heard on the grapevine is that the rate will be adjusted so that the average homeowner will not see an increase.

Which (unfortunately for Frank G.) translates into a shortfall for funding.

Someone has mentioned this before, but more spending does not equal a better education (i.e. District of Columbia).

I’m all for giving the teachers a raise, however cut out waste, like closing small schools, building bigger HS, outsource jobs, too many chiefs,  and removing the dean positions at MS(or at least 2 dean positions).

Did anyone notice the latest CATO report on K-12 education? Costs have doubled even tripled in some cases yet we have the same results from the children. Enough is enough.
McAuliffe wants to give teachers a 2% raise along with what Dr. Hatrick has proposed the system is abusing the taxpayer. As it is without benefits the average teacher in Loudoun makes 36 dollars a hour, yikes.
BoS, please no more money for the overpaid teachers and admin!

The Board of Supervisors says they’re fully funding apples, and the LCPS says they need full funding for oranges. LCPS asks for $106 million increase, and the BoS grants $68m. About $18m is non-negotiable (retirement, healthcare, etc).

This boils down to a fight over two numbers: Funding for competitive compensation and funding for growth.

LCPS requested $28.9m for competitive compensation
and the BoS is giving $14.6m; the shortfall is $14.3m.

LCPS requested $37.9m to accommodate growth and the BoS is offering $23.7m; the shortfall here is $14.2m. But transportation costs can’t be cut (the kids still have to get to school, and buses have to be bought and leased, and driven by someone). The published documents list $9.6m as the increase in transportation costs.

What this means is that the BoS is providing, outside of transportation costs, about $14.1m in additional funding to cover 2375 new students in 3 new schools. Or put another way, around $5936 in funding per new student, outside of transportation costs. LCPS cost per student was $11,648 for 2014.

Claiming to fully-fund the elementary class size budget (at $7.1m) is disingenuous when every dollar of that funding will have to be routed to keep up with growth elsewhere.

The technology budget is being short-changed by $9m as well.

This board is betting that voters care more about saving a few hundred dollars on their tax bills than they do about class sizes and qualified teachers.

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