Representatives of Every Citizen Has Opportunity, the Loudoun Education Association, and the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union on Tuesday asked supervisors to remember them when the board makes its budget votes.
During a public hearing Tuesday, David MacDonald, senior vice president of operations at Leesburg-based medical device company K2M, said his company has employed ECHO clients for 10 years.
“These folks perform valuable services at K2M and have become an important part of our company,” MacDonald said. “They look forward to coming to work each day and working side-by-side with our employees. The sense of self-sufficiency and self-worth these individuals gain as a result of our partnership goes a long way toward them becoming viable, contributing members of the Loudoun community.”
Although ECHO currently helps provide supported employment to more than 100 people with intellectual and physical disabilities, it has a waiting list of 28. Some, according to ECHO program coordinator Alice Morales, have been on the waiting list for two years.
Alyson Romanish, who spoke at a previous public hearing, has a job through ECHO at Good Shepherd Alliance.
“ECHO is important to me because I’ve made lasting friendships, learned new job skills, and [it’s] given me a chance to earn money at a job I love,” Romanish said at a public hearing Feb. 7.
County Employees: Budgets Balanced ‘On Our Backs’
County Administrator Tim Hemstreet’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget includes significant growth in county staffing—something members of the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union said is long overdue.
“The people you see before you are not merely employees with position numbers,” said Carol Taylor, standing in front of a group of purple-clad SEIU members and supporters. “Nor are they social workers, nurses, mechanics, or teachers. They are people. They are servants of the public and they work for the taxpayers of Loudoun.”
Taylor, a former Loudoun County employee who has since started working at Fairfax County, said county employees have faced years of dramatic health care cost increases and short staffing while pay lagged behind both the private sector and the growth in cost of living.
“It is people like me who have been dedicated employees to local citizens, people like me who have had budgets balanced on our backs,” Taylor said. She asked supervisors to “invest in Loudoun.”
Educators Ask for More
Loudoun teachers and members of the Loudoun Education Association asked supervisors to adopt a tax rate a half cent above Hemstreet’s proposed $1.135 rate.
Hemstreet’s proposed budget leaves a $3.5 million gap in the School Board’s budget request, a tenth of what that gap has been in recent years. A $1.140 tax rate, which is a half cent below this year’s rate, and the equalized rate for the average Loudoun homeowner, would close that gap.
Sterling Middle School teacher Corey Griswold acknowledged that the county has no control over how the School Board allocates the money it is given, but told supervisors to “dream big” in Loudoun’s strongest budget in years.
“Efficiency has been demanded of us due to budget constraints, but don’t fool yourselves,” Griswold said. “We have not done more with less, we have done less with less. Our budget is people. That half-cent in the tax rate is not a statistic. It’s my coworkers who help improves the lives of our children.”
LEA president David Palanzi told supervisors, “You know first-hand that education has been an investment for you and your family.”
“One half cent to increase full-day kindergarten,” Palanzi said. “One half cent to improve mental health safety for our teens. One half cent to improve transportation. One half cent to invest in our future.”
The board will hold public two more public hearings on the budget Thursday, March 2 at 3 p.m. at the Loudoun County Government center, 1 Harrison St. in Leesburg; and Saturday, March 4 at 9 a.m. at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. The board is expected to make a final vote on the budget Tuesday, April 4.