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School Board’s Funding ‘Wish List’ Includes Potomac Falls Renovations

© Leesburg Today - 10/29/2015

Even though budget season is three months away, Loudoun's Board of Supervisors can expect a request for $7.49 million from the county's School Board.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the School Board adopted a list of items it wants to purchase and bills it needs to pay off, should county leaders be willing to share some of the money they're expected to have left over from fiscal year 2015.

E. Leigh Burden, the school system's assistant superintendent of Business and Financial Services, said county staff members are estimating the local government will have about $19 million in fund balance from the fiscal year that ended in June.

That's much less than in previous years because supervisors already earmarked several million help lower the tax rate for the current fiscal year. Plus, all but $5 million of that has been earmarked for county projects and bridging any revenue gap during the next budget season.

But, Burden noted that county leaders sounded willing to find money elsewhere for some of the schools' listed funding priorities. For example, the top item on the School Board's adopted list is $4.5 million for buses and other vehicles.

""They've tentatively indicated they can fund it with county fleet money,"" Burden said.

On the schools' side, they may be able to get creative to fund at least part of the second funding priority on the list-eight modular classrooms for a total of $1.48 million-to be placed on the John Champe High School campus to house Mercer Middle School eighth-grade students. Burden said money expected to be leftover from Madison's Trust Elementary School's construction would likely cover half that cost.

Third on the funding priority list is $1.5 million to cover additional costs accrued to build Riverside High School in Lansdowne.

Other items requested for funding include more than $3 million to install synthetic turf fields at Potomac Falls and Briar Woods high schools; $400,000 for modular classrooms at Potomac Falls, as well as $40,000 to renovate that school's laundry room; and $50,000 to build ramps so students can more easily access 15 of the school system's playgrounds.

The plea from Debbie Rose (Algonkian) to put improvements at Potomac Falls High School on the list of priorities was supported by most board members. She, along with board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) and board member Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), toured the high school Monday and said the aging facilities are taking a toll on students and teachers.

Most closets and storage spaces are now used as teachers' offices, poor plumbing only allows the use of one washer at a time to clean athletes' uniforms, and every classroom is occupied, leaving little flexibility to pull students out for more personalized instruction, according to Rose.

""There's a negative impact on the education of students in that building,"" Rose said.

Board members Thomas E. Reed (At Large) and Jennifer K. Bergel (Catoctin) were the only board members to support the request for $18.6 million to expand full-day kindergarten, the most frequently repeated priority cited by the pool of 70-plus candidates for state and local offices this election cycle.

Reed and Bergel are the only two School Board members not running for re-election.

Reed noted that supervisors have called school leaders to task for not requesting county funds to expand the program.

Bergel said, even if the county does not have the money now, a vote to put the request on the funding priority list would show the board's support for the program.

""This allows those running for re-election to take a stand on this issue,"" she said.

Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), Jeff Morse (Dulles) and others said they support extending a full school day to more kindergartners, but would rather implement a well-thought-out plan to do so rather than tossing the item on a ""funding wish list"" one week before Election Day.

""This is a foolish exercise,"" Morse said.

Hornberger added, ""I don't believe in litmus tests during elections.""

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