Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams presented his $1.396 billion Proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Operating Budget to the Loudoun County School Board Thursday night during a special meeting at the LCPS Administrative Offices in Ashburn.
The proposed budget represents a $113.6 million — or 8.9 percent — increase over the current budget of $1.282 million. Its review and adoption is one of the first major tasks to be performed by the 2020-2023 School Board, which took office earlier this week.
Williams said class size maintenance, personalized project-based learning, enhanced security, increased teacher salaries to support recruitment and retention are among the proposed budget's priorities, as well as added support for English-learning, special education, gifted and economically disadvantaged students.
"The proposed FY21 budget will sustain that investment, enabling LCPS to continue providing deeper learning experiences that empower students to make meaningful contributions to the world," he said.
Approximately 85,755 students are projected to attend LCPS across 95 campuses next school year — 1,580 more enrollees than the current school year, marking 1.9 percent growth. Enrollment of English-learner students is expected to grow 9.1 percent.
Increased enrollment will account for $31.9 million in proposed budget increases, according to Williams' presentation. LCPS officials say these funds are necessary for maintaining current class sizes and student services.
The proposed budget would result in an average cost per pupil of $16,213, as compared to the current CPP of $15,241. Given this number, should neighboring schools systems at least maintain their per pupil expenditures, LCPS will remain at or below the median CPP.
LCPS expects to pay approximately 12,320 employees during the 2020-2021 school year, reflecting an increase of about 530, or 4.5 percent, compared with the fiscal 2020 adopted budget.
A net increase of $54.3 million related to salaries and benefits is included in the proposed budget. LCPS officials say this will emphasize improved salaries for teachers so the division can continue to acquire and retain top-notch instruction.
Under the proposed budget, all eligible employees would receive salary step increases averaging 2.2 percent, with an additional 1 percent market-based, across-the-board increase given to eligible full-time employees on the administrator, classified and auxiliary scales. Further, a $6.2 million overall decrease in employee health insurance costs has been proposed.
Enhancements and reallocations
The proposed budget allots $25.6 million for overall enhancements and reallocations, including changes related to project-based learning, special education, security and equity.
According to LCPS, the proposed budget would support personalized, project-based learning in disciplines including math, science, social studies, language arts and computer science. Five Gifted Education teachers would be hired to provide instruction to elementary students through their home schools, for example.
With the number of students with disabilities expected to grow by 1.5 percent, the proposed budget spends more than $9.3 million in special education-related enhancements. It allows for the hiring of 47 additional special education teachers and 28 teacher assistants, as well as the creation of Special Education Deans for select elementary and middle schools.
More than $6 million in enhancements related to equity are included in the budget. It provides 12.8 added teachers for schools with high proportions of English learning students, the hiring of a supervisor and three instructional facilitators focused on equity and culturally responsive instruction, and two additional teachers to conduct STEM-focused programs for students from groups that are underrepresented in gifted education.
Based on Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's introduced budget, Williams' proposed budget assumes a $19 million increase in state funding, further recommending a $94.1 million increase in the county transfer to the schools — a 10.8% increase over the fiscal 20 recommendation.
LCPS officials say a gap of $16.2 to $28.6 million exists between the superintendent's proposed county transfer increase and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors' proposed increase based on fiscal guidance the Board of Supervisors gave the county administrator earlier this week.
The School Board will hold several budget work sessions, with the first one scheduled for Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. Public comment on the proposed budget will be welcomed at the regularly scheduled board meetings at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 14 and 28, and a public hearing regarding the budget will take place during the latter meeting.
"Students only get one shot at K-12 education, so it's important that we do this work right," Williams said after finishing Thursday's presentation.
The School Board is expected to adopt the revised budget on Feb. 4. More information on the proposed fiscal 2021 budget is available at lcps.org/Page/167905.