The Loudoun County School Board this week gave senior staff the green light to spend $2 million to buy Chromebooks, iPads and other classroom technology.
The money is surplus from the current fiscal year 2017, which ends at the end of the month.
The technology devices are already a line item in next fiscal year’s operating budget. But E. Leigh Burden, assistant superintendent of Financial Services, recommended the board use unspent year-end funds to buy them to give the division a little more financial wiggle room in fiscal 2018.
“The reason we want to do this is, as we get more and more accurate in our budgeting, the margin becomes narrower, reducing our ability to respond to unforeseen resource needs in the upcoming year,” she said. “Thus, any purchase of fiscal 2018 non-reoccurring items now allows us some flexibility to address any unanticipated issues that might arise.”
Plus, if the school division doesn’t spend that money, it will have to return it to the county at the end of the fiscal year.
Three School Board members voted against using the surplus money to buy the devices, Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles), Debbie Rose (Algonkian) and Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin).
“If we don’t use these funds right now they’re going to be returned to the taxpayers, and I think that’s a good thing,” DeKenipp said, adding, “I think there are probably better uses for these funds.”
Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) brought up a contentious year-end purchase that got a lot of blow back from the public before eight of the nine current board members were elected. In 2011, the board earmarked fiscal year surplus to buy an interactive white board for every classroom in the district. She spoke against that purchase when she ran for School Board later that year.
At the dais Tuesday, she said it wasn’t thought out and teachers received little training about the white boards beforehand. But this is different, she said. “These are devices that the teachers are already using. There just isn’t enough of them to go around. And technology in the classrooms is one of our major initiatives.”
Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) agreed. “These are already budgeted for and funds have been appropriated for them. … We’re basically covering things that we know we’re going to need, and it gives us a little bit more cushion next year.”