Loudoun School Superintendent Proposes $1B Budget

Superintendent Eric Williams pulled back the curtain on a proposed $1.07 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2017 tonight.

The recommended budget is $86.7 million—or 8.8 percent—more than the current fiscal year’s budget. If approved, it would be the first time the 76,000-student school division has hit the billion dollar mark.

Williams said his budget calls for enough money to meet the needs of one of the region’s fastest growing school divisions, but also includes some expanded services, including doubling the number of kindergartners who have access to a full school day.

“We want a budget that’s going to allow us to build on our excellence, not just sustain it,” Williams told Loudoun County School Board members during his presentation.

He’s recommending the creation of 442 new positions and $37.7 million just to cover the cost of the 1,978 additional students expected to enroll this fall. “We’ve seen tremendous growth,” he said.

His plan carves out $18.5 million for employee raises and other compensation increases. Just more than $10 million of that would go toward raises for employees who qualify, and another $6.7 million would help restructure teacher salary schedule to make pay for certain positions more competitive.

When it comes to pay for experienced teachers, Loudoun County lags behind its neighbors to the east, Williams said. “This is about the quality of teachers that our children are able to benefit from in terms of their education. I can’t overstate the importance of this.”

The superintendent told board members that more details about his plan to extend full-day kindergarten would be made public in later work sessions. For now, he did say it calls for the addition of 137.2 full-time equivalent positions for a cost of $9.2 million. It would provide a full, six-hour school day to 75 percent of the county’s kindergarteners.

Loudoun is one of three localities in Virginia that do not offer a full school day to every kindergartener.

Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) praised senior staff members for coming up with a way to expand the program without building classroom additions, which has been a years-long hurdle for the school division.

“That’s huge,” the chairman said.

Williams had said in November that the school division would need $16.32 million in capital funds to build classroom additions to provide full-day kindergarten to 70 percent of Loudoun’s kindergartners. Currently, about 32 percent of local kindergarten students have access to a full day; that’s up from 11 percent last school year.

The budget drafted by the superintendent calls for $1 million to begin the roll out of the Academies of Loudoun by launching the Academy of Engineering and Technology this fall, two years ahead of the full academies opening in the fall of 2018. The Academies of Loudoun will provide space to expand the existing Academies of Science and C.S. Monroe Technology Center, in addition to the Academy of Engineering and Technology. The latter is a new venture that will emphasize bio-mechanics, robotics, bioengineering and cyber-security. Williams did not provide details about where that program would be housed during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years.

The superintendent just briefly mentioned a proposal to create a performing arts magnet program for a cost of $100,000. The School Board approved a similar magnet program two years ago, but it was ultimately cut during the budget reconciliation process.

The superintendent’s budget would rely on an increase of $58.3 million in county tax funding, in addition to an estimated $26.1 million from the state. Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors, which holds the purse strings for the county government, has directed its staff to prepare a budget based on an equalized tax rate that is intended to keep tax bills level next year. That means the real estate tax rate could fall slightly from $1.135 to $1.13, according to current figures.

Based on projected local tax revenues, the schools would face a $39.5 million funding shortfall, the superintendent said. That is, if supervisors stay on that course on the tax rate and the School Board doesn’t trim Williams’ proposal.

The School Board has four work sessions and two public hearings ahead of the budget’s adoption Feb. 2. The public hearings are planned for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, and Thursday, Jan. 28, at the school administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. The adopted budget then goes to the supervisors as a funding request.

The budget outlook for the fiscal year that begins in July will become more clear after the county administrator presents his spending plan to the supervisors Feb. 10.

Other highlights of the superintendent’s proposed budget:

  • supplies and equipment increase ($3.7 million)
  • contractual service increases ($1.9 million)
  • adds 25.7 full-time equivalent positions to focus on differentiated education for academically at-risk students ($1.7 million)
  • adds 14.5 full-time equivalent technology assistants ($700,000)
  • adds 11.8 positions as part of a reorganization of instructional support ($900,000)
  • adds four full-time equivalent positions for instructional coaching ($500,000)
  • adds new positions to support transition to ORACLE, software for business and personnel functions ($500,000)
  • restores three middle school deans positions ($300,000)
  • adds two positions focused on teacher recruitment ($200,000)
  • central vehicle maintenance increase ($900,000)
  • continue implementing the multi-year plan to provide every teacher with a mobile device (cost covered through reallocation of funds)

15 thoughts on “Loudoun School Superintendent Proposes $1B Budget

  • 2016-01-08 at 10:05 am

    Thanks LoudounNow for keeping us informed! Great to see the school district’s budget supporting progress in technology.

  • 2016-01-08 at 10:59 am

    I second the kudos for LoudounNow for keeping the spirit of the late, great Leesburg Today (tear wiping) going.

    I attended the portion during which Dr. Williams presented. A few notes:

    1. What a difference a Superintendent makes. Dr. Williams comes across as honest and understands that he reports to the Board that makes the final decisions.
    2. I especially like how Dr. Williams, when needing to add something, looks for reductions in other areas first.
    3. It was obvious that the Board gets along well with Dr. Williams and they worked collaboratively up to this point.
    4. FDK. Williams stated they could get to 75% implementation next year and, I assume, 100% the year after. Ms. Rose asked a great question: What about those parents that don’t want FDK. Can there be a 1/2 day option? That is a great idea and should be explored. Not all parents want FDK (despite what the educrats say). And why pay for FDK if people don’t want it? If 75% participation makes the parents happy, then stick with 75%. I thought that was the best suggestion of the night (well, at least until 8:00). FDK is still a waste of money and does nothing academically for kids, but if you are going to do it then let those who don’t want it bypass it and save LCPS some $$$ in the process.
    5. New Board member DeKennip (sp?) also posed a good idea. Since older and younger teachers value different things in their compensation packages, why have a 1-size fits all approach? He suggested exploring different packages for different Step levels. A good idea.
    6. Hornberger noted the pleasant surprise of the numbers being lower than expected and previously reported. But the Board also noted a key danger—the amount of money expected from the state may or may not come through and was higher than previously projected. If I was looking for an accounting gimmick (and I was), this was probably it. Meaning, the state contribution was $13M higher than previously stated while the County contribution dropped $20M. Nobody will know what the state contribution is until the County budget process is done. This appeared to me as a way to squeeze more money from the County. By over-projecting the State Contribution number, when it comes in short, the County will get stuck with the bill. Everyone will then blame the State for the financial shortfall.

    It’s a $1B budget! I’ll repeat of comment I’ve made often. In LCPS-land a lot of these changes are minute in dollar value. But a 1% budget increase is $10M, which just sucks the life out of the rest of the County budget. That 1% increase is more than the entire budget for other County Departments. The other 30+ Departments continue to get squashed by the 800lb gorilla that eats what it wants and then they get the scraps. I hope the BoS continues to explore Sup. Buona’s idea of setting the LCPS budget every other year and then the other Departments can get the focus they deserve in the off-years.

  • 2016-01-08 at 2:34 pm

    Yes, the numbers were lower because they scrapped the $8.9M “gifts” they were planning to hand out to administrators (called that “reclassification”). And they updated the cost of step increases from $14M+ to $10.3M (funny how my FOIA request in the summer of 2015 that proved the $16.8M estimate for step increases was nonsense accelerated that process).

    But it is a more reasonable number. That side, it’s also an accounting gimmick. Let’s say that you have mostly junior personnel (steps 1-9). You want to lock them into big raises but you if you give them a raise right now, you must have cash on-hand (LCPS operating budget) to pay for it. You could give them a salary increase in the future without actually having to pay for anything right now. That’s exactly what LCPS did.

    A key portion of the proposal is a salary scale “adjustment”. This has nothing to do with the step increase that cost $10.3M so every teacher moves up a step on the scale (as they should). The adjustment essentially combines a COLA increase (everybody gets a 1.8%+ increase in each step) with actual permanent increases to certain steps (that’s the adjustment part). But rather than adjust any of the steps where teachers currently sit (steps 1-9 for the most part – you can see the distribution based on my FOIA data from last summer on my Facebook page), they significantly increase the steps in the middle of the scale (steps 11-21). There are few teachers that work there now (other than say Chairman Hornberger’s wife) so it doesn’t “cost” a lot in the budget right now. Truthful budgeting gives a standard rate for a position. It would show that this adjustment will cost a lot more than what we are being told. But since LCPS reports on essentially a cash flow basis, this true cost is hidden during the current cycle. Many teachers will get a much higher raise in a few years as our teacher distribution reaches steady state.

    What does that mean to the BOS and taxpayers? I think most agree that teachers should get a step increase each year just as they have for the last 5 years (forget the lies that Fox, Hornberger, and others told you last year, the FOIA responses proves they have been getting step increases). But in the future, it will cost even more to give those step increases for future BOS. In theory, a step increase should be cost-free since old teachers retire and new ones are hired. But when you have an unbalanced distribution with mostly young teachers (steps 1-9), every teacher moves up a step without older teachers existing to retire. Thus, step increases really do cost 2%+. With this latest adjustment, those step increases will be bumped up even more because steps 11-21 (where our teachers will be in 5-10 years) got an out-sized bump.

    I’ve estimated that the current salary scale costs ~$50M more than what we currently budget if you project forward to a steady-state distribution of teachers across the 30 steps. But now, that estimate must rise because of this new adjustment. It’s like letting Senator Warren and Rep Pelosi increase the Social Security payouts for retirees 5 years in the future and then claim it costs nothing in the FY17 budget. That’s true but LCPS just locked you into $M’s of additional costs in the future. One can dispute whether this was unaware LCPS officials who don’t know how to analyze budgets or an intentional effort to hide the true cost of their budget. I think the latter but admit it could be the former. Unless they are required to provide a standard rate analysis and answer questions of the intelligent public rather than folks like Jill Turgeon who admits she really doesn’t understand the budget, we’ll never know.

    • 2016-01-09 at 4:39 pm

      I can appreciate the information that you have provided concerning the proposed salary scale adjustments. It is important to look ahead further than one or two years. However, it is also important to look at current trends in education. Many young teachers are leaving the profession within the first five years. These teachers will never reach the “middle” status of the scale and will be replaced by other new teachers with minimal experience. We will always have more teachers in the first ten years of their career as many will switch professions, leave to raise children, or move away for various reasons. Those that remain with the county and continue as mentors and role models and help maintain consistency within the schools deserve to be compensated for their dedication. There may not be many of us in the middle, but that does not mean we don’t deserve the compensation that is finally being proposed.

  • 2016-01-08 at 3:52 pm

    SGP spins his tales to make it seem like teachers receive significant pay increases every year and that we should simply grin and bear it. The truth is that my weekly salary is $50 more a week than it was two years ago. This is before having to pay more each year for insurance. I had advanced degrees and years of private industry experience before switching to teaching public school (for a variety of reasons.). I am not begging the tax payers for more money but I am asking get SGP and others to stop portraying my earnings as anything other than what it is, about a third to a half of what I can make elsewhere. Also, stop insisting that my retirement plan makes up for the low take home pay or that I work less as a teacher than in my previous life.

  • 2016-01-08 at 4:24 pm

    CareerSwitcher, I did not say you received “significant pay increases” every year. I said that teachers had, on average, received 2-4% pay increases over the last five years. That’s just a fact. You can argue that it should be closer to 3%, 4%, 5%, etc. Just be honest. I guess you didn’t get the same deal that Hornberger’s spouse did in getting a 12-13% pay raise over 3 years, eh? I guess it pays to never have to disclose any conflicts of interest.

    Are you willing to share your step? It is true that certain (higher) steps had some adjustments. As teachers in these higher steps were given step increases, the new step’s salary was adjusted down. But each of those teachers still received more salary in the following year (step increase + step adjustment = some salary increase). LCSB members and officials allowed their sycophants to claim “no step increases” had been given for year when it was patently false. Is that the kind of “transparency” Hornberger promised upon being sworn in and elected as Chairman? You bet it is!

    When you make statements such as “stop insisting that my retirement plan makes up for the low take home pay”, you sound like … well a teacher who hasn’t taken the personal finance class required for graduation in Virginia. Private sectors workers (responsible ones) must put away a significant amount of their pay in savings for retirement (10%+). You simply don’t have to do that. Spend every penny. That means the “effective take-home pay” of a private sector worker is less than their paycheck. Your take-home pay is your paycheck. Please explain to me why this isn’t the case. I think I understand some financial principles but I certainly don’t know everything. Enlighten me. Btw, many members of the BOS see this exactly the same way I do. They just won’t say so publicly.

    As for the claim that you could make 2x or 3x your compensation in a private sector job, that is laughable. See Valerie Strauss’ Dec 22, 2015 article about a teacher who burned out and switched to a programming career. She took a $10K pay cut to switch from teaching into programming. I hear all these teachers claim they can double their salary if they switch. That’s nonsense. We have Step 30 teachers earning $130K/yr (salary + pension) for working 200 days. That’s just a fact. You may not like the public knowing this fact. Hornberger agrees with you and refuses to publish this “private sector equivalent payscale” even though we could solve our teacher shortage problem overnight by doing so. You want the public to be confused and ignorant so they will ignore the debate and you can be seen as a victim. Note that if you would support true evaluations, I would adamantly support raising pay for highly effective teachers. Virtually no teachers in Loudoun support that. We are not Dallas, TX or Washington, DC.

    Since I have every teacher’s salary by name, why don’t you just tell us your step so we can verify your claims about your salary. I won’t even ask for your name. While all teacher salaries are public, you haven’t seen me publish the data I received. But I’m guessing a vague claim about small raises that’s impossible to disprove might convince other citizens that you are being honest. You would make a great member of the current LCSB team!!!!

  • 2016-01-08 at 5:47 pm

    SGP. First, I apologize for mistyping. What I had intended to type was that I could be earning 1/3 to 1/2 more than my current pay. I base this in taking huge cut in pay yo come to teaching. I knew this before hand and I personally decided that this was the right choice for me. This is definitely the best job I have ever had and I am working with fantastic people, all focused on the individual students we serve. Again, I do not post to ask for more pay. I know this is not in the hands of Loudoun Now readers. I simply ask SGP to have some respect for those who choose to teach. We do not get rich doing this. We do not even get better financially year after year.

  • 2016-01-09 at 4:54 pm

    CareerSwitcher, fair enough. Let me make a couple of assumptions.

    i. You were hired as a Step 1 (this is not a reqt especially if one had prior teaching experience in a different industry. You could be hired at step 5, 10 or any step)

    ii. You are still in the lower steps on the scale (steps 1-10)

    If these are true, you barely get an annual raise at all based on the salary scale. Yet teachers at the top are getting massive raises (Step 28 will get $4400 raise this year alone). And the salary adjustments (both from a couple of years back and this year) will not help you as much. Meanwhile, “chosen” teachers in the middle have received $10K+ raises over the last 4 years while you’ll be lucky to get half that. The compressed scale in the early steps is a real problem. But LCSB members don’t have spouses on those steps so it’s ignored. Instead, the steps in the middle where those spouses sit get the biggest raises.

    Let me address some other points:

    1. It is because teaching is so important that we should recruit, retain and support the best ones. We are not hiring cashiers at a fast food restaurant. If you see the bubble chart on my Facebook page showing the value-added of real Loudoun teachers, you’ll see that some are literally adding $100K’s every year in additional lifetime earnings to their students. Others, well, are subtracting value relative to an average teacher. LCPS has no idea who either set of teachers are. That’s a leadership issue that goes all the way to the top.

    2. Most don’t think that anyone entered teaching to get rich. In most industries, folks don’t remain for the pay. Organizational management shows pay is not irrelevant but not in the top 2-3 key factors in retention. We are not accusing you of being greedy. But when some teachers (mostly towards the top of the scale) threaten to leave for higher-paying districts, not only are they playing hardball, but they are being disingenuous. Fairfax won’t hire anybody at higher than level 15. So the top half of our scale does not matter. Particularly the top step which takes 30 years to reach (or 15 years from the last step in which a teacher could reasonably leave). Massive increases to the top step are a giveaway to union activists. Those top teachers are earning $125-130K/yr for 200 days. Their pension is 70% greater than a teacher hired this year (1.7x final earnings vs 1.0x). It’s almost a different world altogether.

    3. Teachers have posted supposed anecdotes on these chat forums about how much other teachers from various states earn. Nearly all are mistaken. Most teachers across the US are underpaid. While you can argue Loudoun is too, it’s a completely different world. Look at the 3rd tab on the “LCPS…analysis.xlsx” spreadsheet (called “Salary Comps”) I uploaded on my Facebook page (see comment under the latest salary post). By the time a teacher reaches the top step, (even under the FY16 scale) Loudoun teachers are earning $6800 more than Fairfax, $20K more than Virginia Beach, $36K more than Durham, NC, and a whopping $41K more than Knoxville, TN teachers every year. Are Dr. Williams and Chrmn Hornberger really suggesting that we need to significantly raise our top step’s scale to keep senior teachers (who couldn’t transfer without taking a massive step/pay cut anyway) from leaving? Those top step salaries don’t play a huge part in the operating budget yet because our teachers are young, but as teachers mature, those massive salaries will handcuff this county.

    4. I referenced North Carolina and Tennessee salaries above because they are nearby, many districts have been cutting teaching positions, and those states actually objectively measure the effectiveness of their teachers (VAMs). We could fill ALL of our vacant teaching positions by raiding those states. And we could ensure we were getting great teachers (show me your EVAAS scores). Williams’ argument that we need to keep increasing some of the top salaries in the mid-Atlantic to get enough teachers when it’s a recruiting problem shows he is disingenuous about the whole basis for salary adjustments.

    5. Many of us would support paying effective teachers well. Dallas, TX implemented a performance-based promotion program where you only move up in major steps as you demonstrate effectiveness. It also includes taking on more responsibility such as dept leads and mentoring. While it’s highly unlikely (who gets promoted to Exec VP in this time), a new teacher can move to the top of the scale ($90K+) within 8 years. LCSB won’t even consider that. They just love their system that guarantees promotion to a new step every year for all teachers and gives out 99.5% effective ratings. This system only really helps the senior teachers who are making serious $$ and receiving much higher raises (in $ and %) than the junior teachers who are often just as or more effective.

    6. There is no transparency in the salary scale. They didn’t even explain what was going on. If you review the “LCPS Fy17 Salary” tab in my spreadsheet, you can see what’s going on. In addition to a step increase, a Cost-of-Living + Wage Increase boost was given at the following rates (column J): Steps 1-9: 2.5%, Steps 10-16: 3.1%, Steps 17-20: 2.6% and Steps 21-30: 1.8%. Thus, the only steps which experience a change in their recurring step increases are the intersection points: Steps 10, 17, and 21 (column N). That means after this one-time adjustment, most young teachers return to pitiful raises and the senior teachers continue their handsome ones every year. If a step increase is given next year, a Step 2->3 teacher receives $347/yr more while a Step 28->29 teacher receives $2828/yr more (over 8x as much). Is that fair? Why won’t they explain both what they did and WHY they did it? LCPS needs to fix the early part of the scale fast. As you can see from the xls (column L), young teachers get raises of ~1% until Step 5 and 1.9% until Step 10. Middle teachers get 2.55% raises while the most senior teachers (those least likely to leave) get the biggest $ and % raises at 2.9%. There is no retention explanation for those changes. It’s all payback-based. And I wonder whose spouse is right in the middle of the largest % increase this year (steps 12-16 at 5.65%)? Hmmmm….

    7. There is also no transparency in Dr. Williams presentation. Even though he hates standardized tests, he touts the “great” results of LCPS on …. standardized tests. He says math scores rose 4% pts, ELL achieved double-digit gains and LCPS reduced the # of schools accredited with a warning. Williams knows this resulted from the SOL retesting policy that artificially raised scores by 4% on average (more for those populations like ELL who had lower passing rates). But he doesn’t include that in his “transparent” presentation. In fact, every single LCPS school would have failed accreditation if the US Dept of Education knew that LCPS committed fraud on its ESEA waiver. The ESEA required 100% passing rates for accreditation this year unless SGPs were used in evals. LCPS didn’t even download them but lied to the feds about their compliance.

    I don’t think most people have a problem with raises but we do have issues with the complete lack of transparency and outright deception. LCPS should develop a framework for determining raises. For example, step increases should be standard. Inflation COLA’s should also be standard. Since inflation is ~0% this year, that results in just a standard step increase. It’s fair to also increase wages (Avg Wage Index is used by SS prior to retirement). It appears that a base 1.8% wage increase was included. Overall, this would result in around a 4.1% increase (2.3% standard + 1.8% wage increase). Did you see any explanation like this in the briefs or the presentation?

    How do you think LCPS should determine salaries and its budget? Everybody will have an opinion. Let’s not talk about exactly what the numbers should be (some say “always give them more” and others say “it’s always too much” but that’s not a plan to determine salaries year to year). What should the process be? And what info should accompany the proposed budget? I certainly hope you aren’t expecting anybody voting on that dais to figure it out and inform the public (even if they did figure it out).

  • 2016-01-11 at 6:46 am

    teacher in the middle, I don’t have a problem with:

    1. Step increases for all teachers

    2. Some wage increase (beyond the 0% inflation this past year)

    But I do think it’s unwise to:

    A. Increase the step 1 salary because we need to start spreading out the step raises the first few years else teachers never feel they get any rewards their first 5-8 years. If you keep step 1 fixed, new teachers will feel rewarded upon reaching the newly elevated steps 2-5.

    B. Give such a large wage increase to teachers in steps 21-30. They are already receiving nearly 3% raises in their steps and are relatively highly paid. LCPS is not in jeopardy of losing them to other districts. Simply put a teacher in steps 21-30 shouldn’t get a higher % increase than the raise for teachers in steps 1-8 (total step increase % and wage increase %).

    C. Give such large raises to teachers in steps 10-21 of over 5%. Virtually no workers in the US will average 5% raises this year. LCPS pays well for its cost of living. These teachers can rightly earn more than a 2% increase but something in the neighborhood of 4% on the high end.

    I am partial to the plan I proposed but others will have different ideas. Everyone should explain and justify their plans.

    Btw, Loudoun Now is a different paper but Norm appears to be censoring once again. He allowed a post from Sat at 4:39pm to be posted but has held mine from 4:54pm that same day in the queue. I think we know Norm would censor all viewpoints he didn’t like if he could get away with it. Folks should understand this when using these chat forums.

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