Loudoun School Leaders Defend $1.24B Budget to Supervisors

School leaders gathered around a table with Loudoun County supervisors Wednesday evening to formally request $759 million in local tax funding for public schools next fiscal year.

Superintendent Eric Williams explained the intricacies of the full $1.24 billion spending plan adopted by the Loudoun County School Board. The budget relies on a 9 percent increase in local tax dollars over the current fiscal year, while enrollment is expected to grow by about 3,000 students, or 3.8 percent.

Supervisors have questioned why the rate of the school system’s operating budget is increasing faster than its student population.

But Williams said there are a lot of additional costs to a growing school system, beyond just providing more seats for more students.

He explained that Loudoun County continues to add more school buildings, which increases the need for employees and the overall operations and maintenance costs. He also noted that the school system has added special education students and students in need of extra help to learn English at a higher rate than the general student population growth. Each of those students cost more to educate.

But, he stressed, that the amount the county government spends to educate one child, on average, still is comparatively lower than eight years ago. Local funding per pupil in fiscal year 2009 was $9,202, as compared to $8,028 (adjusted for inflation) next fiscal year, if the School Board’s full budget request is funded.

“I show you this just for context—the county contribution is not at the same level it was in FY09,” Williams said. “We feel that data shows that what we’re requesting is reasonable.”

The superintendent also put a spotlight on areas in which the school system has made progress, including full-day kindergarten. Just two years ago, 518 students, or 11 percent of Loudoun kindergartners, attended school for a full academic day. By this fall, the plan is to earmark $8.9 million to provide as many as 4,600 students, or 82 percent of all Loudoun kindergartners, with a full day.

He also highlighted line items in the budget that will provide more mental health services to secondary school students, and increase hours and pay for bus drivers, in an effort to attract and retain more drivers. “We are being assertive in this area because of the great need and the challenges we face in filling bus driver positions,” the superintendent said.

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who chairs the county board’s finance committee, told Williams and School Board members that he was glad to see progress being made to restore some of what was lost during difficult budget years following the recession. But several county government departments also are in dire need of more staff and pay increases, he said.

County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) at a joint meeting of the two boards Wednesday, Feb. 22. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]
He noted that about 77 percent of Loudoun County Public Schools employees live in the county, while only about half of the county employees do. Most commute in from the west where the cost of living is lower. “We need to address some of these issues on the county side,” he said. “I just want to give you a heads up on that because it might be impacting future budget years.”

Some of those shortfalls could be made up this budget cycle, as the budget outlook for fiscal year 2018 is brighter than it has been in several years. County Administrator Tim Hemstreet’s proposed budget, presented to supervisors last week, calls for the addition of 176 full-time equivalent jobs and carves out $770.4 million for the schools. That would come up only $3.5 million short of the School Board’s request. That funding gap has been as much as $35 million in recent years.

Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) noted that the growth in the county, especially in the business sector, is to thank for the increased revenue. The data centers alone are providing $150 million in revenue this year, he said. “Five years ago, that number was about $25 million. I know a lot of people don’t want to see that growth, but at the same time that growth is what has put us in this position.”

The Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2 at 3 p.m., both at the Loudoun County Government center, 1 Harrison St. in Leesburg. It will hold another Saturday, March 4 at 9 a.m. at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. Supervisors are expected to make a final vote on the budget Tuesday, April 4.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
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10 thoughts on “Loudoun School Leaders Defend $1.24B Budget to Supervisors

  • 2017-02-22 at 10:48 pm
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    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.

    • 2017-02-23 at 11:02 am
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      As per usual, SGP has no real clue about education. Did you happen to view the slides (available to view on BoardDocs) that explains the WHY behind the increase in funding? LCPS has experienced a huge growth in the population of ELL students, Special Ed students, and students of low socioeconomic status. These populations require a higher level of funding to provide services than if it was an increase of an average student. Montgomery County’s student populations have been historically diverse in regards to ELL, SpEd, and low socioeconomic status and the resources are already in place.

      • 2017-02-23 at 2:24 pm
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        That is nonsense. There is an unbelievable amount of double counting going on. We paid for teachers at yet-to-be-open schools in FY17. This budget keeps all of that funding and adds more on top including funding for even more new schools. But the FY17 funding for new schools was already included which is more than enough for the new schools next year.

        LCPS rates of ESL & FRL have increased very slightly. That doesn’t require more than a small tweak, certainly not a 5.5% increase per pupil.

        Look, we get it. Teachers are flocking to LCPS and won’t leave. Yet, LCPS demands pay raises for its highly paid teachers (without any evaluation) in part to satisfy LCSB members whose spouses are in line for those raises. Nobody in the private sector gets 5% raises year after year lately especially without evaluations. You must be very happy.

  • 2017-02-23 at 7:16 am
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    First, SGP, any raises to teachers cannot be described as exorbitant by any reasonable person. Second, everyone knows that BOS members have spouses who work for the schools and the BOS has repeatedly disclosed this public information as the letter from Porter acknowledges. Third, your continued attack on the schools does not represent the views of the community. So, do not expect anyone to vote for you next BOS or SB election.

    • 2017-02-23 at 9:10 am
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      Paula Hornberger received a 15% raise over 3 years. How many folks in the private sector received such raises during the 2012-2015 time period? Note that this occurred while Eric Hornberger voted to terminate the math specialists even though he, himself, acknowledged that LCPS had problems in math. Why did he reduce the math specialists but not the reading specialists? Paula is a reading specialist. I would venture to guess the math specialists who were eliminated think Paula’s 15% raise is rather exorbitant compared to getting released.

      The school board members knowingly violated the clear requirements of the law. I had warned them and we even took this to court in 2015. Yet Hornberger, Turgeon and DeKenipp willfully refused to follow the law in 2016. But what happened in previous years? Were any disclosures made at all? The lack of any disclosure whatsoever is clearly a violation. The only question that remains is whether any law enforcement agency will prosecute obvious legal violations by elected officials. We shall see.

  • 2017-02-23 at 2:09 pm
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    So LCPS wants funds for 300 new positions for 3,000 more students? 1 new position for every 10 students? May I get an explanation for this?

    Also, SGP is right. Every year there is a surplus. Perhaps LCPS is sandbagging? We KNOW they did in FY2014 – 2016. But this year they are not?

    LCPS has more employment applications that they can respond to. If LCPS hires more teachers from Fairfax than go to Fairfax, is compensation the real issue?

    As for the increase in non-English speaking students, how can that number be enough to move the needle? Where are we importing students from? Or is it not politically acceptable to ask?

    Finally how can LCPS consume 80% of the entire County budget while its less than 70% in both Fairfax and PW? Seems to me that LCPS is overfunded relative to our neighboring counties.

    Why can’t our elected official provide clear answers? Why are they not asking these questions?

    • 2017-02-23 at 4:22 pm
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      Spot on, Loco. The reason that the elected school board is not asking questions is they are the ones pushing for the massive expenditures. First, the large raises come to their households as 4 of the 9 school board members have spouses that work there. Second, the LCPS staff puts together a budget based on informal contact (read no FOIA requirements) with the school board members. Ever wonder why the approved LCPS budget request is within $1M (out of a $1124M total) of what the staff recommended? That doesn’t happen by coincidence.

      But the disappointing issue is that the LCSB creates a budget request as a negotiating position. They never expect to get all they requested but if they only asked for what they needed, it would be harder to get the BOS to fund just the reqts in tight revenue situations. And LCSB can’t ask for $200M/yr increases else they would appear really insane. It just so happens the BOS may give LCPS everything it asked for in its inflated, negotiating-position request this year. But just because the county is generating more tax revenue is no reason to waste other people’s (taxpayers) money.

      One has to wonder if some supervisor friendships (Letourneau is good friends with Jeff Morse as they even campaigned together. Morse failed to follow Virginia disclosure laws regarding his wife working for LCPS and knowingly provides an increased budget when there was $34M left unspent in the last audited one) are clouding their judgments. Can Letourneau really justify giving $93M more to LCPS when the expenses in its last audited budget were $34M less than its BOS funding? If Morse was a stranger to Letourneau, would Matt ever stand for such chicanery?

      • 2017-02-23 at 8:54 pm
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        so which positions get cut? Which services get reduced? Your ranting makes it seem like these positions and costs are wasted! But, if you look at the schools, you will see teachers and staff actually working, helping students, and educating our youth. This is not waste and no one is getting rich.

        • 2017-02-24 at 11:16 am
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          The BOS can cut the funding to LCPS by $30M+ without LCPS having to cut a single position. The only consequence is there won’t be $30-40M of slush funds to spend on goodies at the end of the year. Everything will be reviewed in the normal budget process.

          In addition, a 9.3% increase is ridiculous. Part of that is the double-counting/inflated requests that resulted in the $34M+ unspent funds above. So they could cut $5-10M of this $93M without any consequences as well. LCPS’ finance dept is completely incompetent.

          But we can’t fill law enforcement positions right now. Those salaries need to get raised. Teachers will get step increases regardless. But we don’t need to spend $10M of give teachers an additional 2.5% raise on top of the 2.2% step increase to “compete” with Fairfax when we have less than 20 total teachers out of 4000+ who transfer to Fairfax. Bus drivers and law enforcement are underpaid based on market dynamics (can’t fill them). Teachers are not given we have ample capacity. Evaluate them objectively to demonstrate some produce outsized gains and more will support higher teacher salaries for the effective ones.

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