Public Asks Board to Fully Fund School Budget

The Board of Supervisors has heard three public input sessions on the budget, and one message was clear at all three: Fully fund the requested school budget.

Teachers, staff, and parents spoke at all three public hearings, dominating two. Most wore matching shirts, demanding the board support the School Board’s $1 billion budget request. County Administrator Tim Hemstreet has said that will require raising the real estate tax rate.

[See what the tax rate means for you here.]

Bring on the tax raise, said speakers, if that’s what it takes to fully fund the school budget request. Jenna Nemes, president of the Hamilton Elementary School PTA, said her property tax rate has climbed steadily.

“Despite that, I’m here to ask you to increase the tax rate to $1.17 to fully fund the school budget,” Nemes said.

Lisa Carter holds up a list of SOL standards, asking the board to fund an increase in full-day kindergarten. Renss Greene/Loudoun Now
Lisa Carter holds up a list of SOL standards, asking the board to fund an increase in full-day kindergarten. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

The current real estate tax rate is $1.135 per $100 of assessed value. Hemstreet said that rate would have to rise to $1.17 to fully fund the school budget request.

Other parents, teachers, and staff agreed with Nemes. Michelle Copeland is the mother of a boy about to enter middle school.

“I am willing to pay whatever it takes to ensure that his middle school is staffed with a dean to keep him safe,” Copeland said.

“My students are children, not statistics,” said teacher Julie Ruhlen. “They are not faceless entities; they are living, breathing humans.” She asked the board to adopt a tax rate that “does the least harm to our schools.”

Other teachers turned up to tell the board they were being forced to leave by the pay scale and cost of living in Loudoun. Celeste Liscouski said she has “had enough.”

“It makes me sad to say it, but I will be leaving at the end of the school year, because I no longer want the job where I am underpaid and under appreciated,” Liscouski said.

Mark Sell asks the Board of Supervisors to keep taxes down. Renss Greene/Loudoun Now
Mark Sell asks the Board of Supervisors to keep taxes down. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

But not everyone wants a tax increase. A handful of Loudouners turned out to ask the board keep taxes down. Mark Sell, former chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee, said that even with equalized tax rates, his property value and tax bill go up.

“I’m sure you get a lot of people that want you to raise it for a lot of things, but some of us aren’t made of money,” Sell said.

“Anything, it seems to me, beyond $1.14 would be a big impact on these people,” Will Estrada said. “These are real people, real families.”

A delegation of speakers also came from the Service Employees International Union to ask the board to protect county staff, including increasing staffing and ending the pay-for-performance system.

Patty Nelson, backed by other Service Employees International Union members, asks the Board of Supervisors to protect county staff pay and benefits. Renss Greene/Loudoun Now
Patty Nelson, backed by other Service Employees International Union members, asks the Board of Supervisors to protect county staff pay and benefits. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“We love what we do,” Patty Nelson said. “We’re not here to get rich, but we do need to be able to take care of our families, and we need the resources to do our jobs.”

Lillian Ferrell said at 63 years old, she is a lifetime Loudoun resident, but cannot afford a house on a county salary, and still rents. Upon retirement, she said, she will have to leave the county.

“Our wages have not kept up with the cost of living, and have not kept up with neighboring jurisdictions,” Ferrell said.

The board will balance those requests as it hashes out the fiscal year 2017 budget. A final vote is scheduled for April 5.

12 thoughts on “Public Asks Board to Fully Fund School Budget

  • 2016-03-01 at 12:04 pm

    The teachers who claimed they are so poorly paid are providing false information. Here are the facts.

    1. LCPS is advocating a 5% increase in per pupil spending in FY17. This is obviously unaffected by enrollment growth because it’s per pupil. That compares to an inflation rate of approximately 0.7%.

    2. Since 2011, LCPS has seen per pupil growth of 23% compared to inflation over that time of about 8%. Clearly, spending at LCPS has “kept up” with the costs of living, in fact, it has outstripped inflation by a factor of 3x.

    3. Teachers at LCPS can retire at 52 yrs old with an annual pension of $50K/yr. That’s because the county contributes so much to VRS (equivalent to 18.2% of their salary). What other occupation retires at 52 with a $50K pension? The county employees certainly don’t as they must work till 65 at least.

    4. Of course teachers or parents are asking to have their property taxes raised. Let’s see… “please raise my taxes by $150/yr (and everybody’s taxes for that matter) so I can earn $2500 more in my county salary”. That’s the deal of the century. For the parents who pay $5K of their children’s $24K/yr educational cost, I’m sure they’d like to force everyone to chip in another $150/yr too. That’s called coercion.

    5. The teachers who are “leaving” for other districts are crazy. First, no other district is hiring like LCPS so I’m curious to hear where all these teachers are going. New teachers earn more in LCPS than almost any other district in NOVA. Step 30 teachers in LCPS earn more than step 30 teachers in Fairfax. Teachers in the mid steps have the LOWEST attrition rate of any teachers in our system. It’s all propaganda to beg for more handouts.

    I have Celeste Liscouski’s salary (it’s public info). I’ll be happy to post Celeste’s salary. She is NOT underpaid!

    • 2016-03-01 at 5:11 pm

      Well I’m not thrilled that our taxes show TBD, we received our notification last week. And no matter what the advertised tax rate is, it’s meaningless. Meaning it’s the actual appraised value that homeowners need to be concerned about. Mathematically it’s simple to explain, you can artificially inflate home/land values but still have a low advertised tax rate, but you’ll actually pay more taxes then you did last year.

  • 2016-03-01 at 2:07 pm

    Don’t raise taxes and don’t give LCPS their requested amount. They got fully funded last year, and then just came back and asked for more, more, more, more. It never stops with them.

    • 2016-03-01 at 5:05 pm

      They will continue to ask for more…now that LCPS has breached the $1B threshold it’s kind of mind boggling that they keep pressing to fully fund…I can’t recall when the BoS haven’t increased funding for education.

  • 2016-03-01 at 4:20 pm

    So, Brian. What is wrong with a teacher wanting what was promised? How dare you want to change the rules for teachers who have dedicated themselves to improving YOUR child while you sit there and do nothing for the community.

    You hide behind your false postings all while you, yourself, are a public employee taking way more than any teacher from the federal gov’t. Where do you come off complaining about teacher salaries and retirement when you make twice what a teacher does and you produce so little?

    Somehow, you are connecting minor tax increase directly to and only to teacher salaries neglecting anything else being funded. Also, somehow you are indignant that the cost of a cup of coffee a week and help the county so much more.

    Tell you what, spend some of your precious time working on behalf of others and we can talk about specific numbers. Otherwise, you are simply trying to bully your way into the lives of teachers simply because the school system has laughed you out of the buildings.

    Maybe your AM friends might support your fantasy of being important but you helping the schools or the community.

  • 2016-03-01 at 7:56 pm

    CareerSwitcher, apparently you did not get the memo. You are not supposed to post on here so everyone will just ignore the comments. No discipline, eh? Yep, the teacher unions had absolutely ZERO discipline. That’s one reason I’m about to get the names of all the teachers who have SGP scores!

    I do agree with you on one point. I am not important. But I am one of the few who will attempt to enforce the laws (especially those on corruption) against public officials in Loudoun. There are others who are willing to testify and sign their names to complaints. But all in due time, my dear.

    I see that when one has no rational argument, they begin to throw irrelevant insults and temper tantrums. At least we now know that you can’t refute any of the data that we post. Probably a good thing you left your private sector job if your skills were that weak. You wouldn’t want to get a realistic job evaluation and thus very few promotions. But let’s review your latest charges/insults:

    1. Teachers are very well compensated in NoVa for the “work” that they do. I mention “work” because it is a job. It’s not as if all the teachers volunteered to get shot at as police officers or military members. They get paid for their work. And whether someone digs ditches, allocates capital efficiently on Wall St, develops cures for diseases, increases productivity for all companies via technology, or teaches kids, their work contributes to society. It’s called capitalism. If you want to volunteer as a teacher without pay, then we’ll give you extra credit. Many of us idolize those who volunteer to stand in the line of fire to protect our freedom of speech even if they are paid (apparently many teachers do not since they think “of course teachers should get paid more than sergeants because they all have pieces of paper from college”). It’s clear from so many teachers threatening to leave for only getting paid $100K/yr that those teachers see this as a job, not a calling.

    2. We are not changing the rules in the middle of the game. Teachers are not entitled to step increases, COLA increases or out-of-cycle salary scale increases, only their pensions. So how is proposing both a step increase and COLA increase “changing the rules”? The only thing I am against is the out-of-cycle scale increases, especially for the mid-to-senior teachers who are already making a lot of $$$ like Celeste. Way to set up a strawman…

    3. Speaking of changing the rules, everybody was “promised” Social Security. But for the last 30 years, both politicians and baby boomers knew that if they kept drawing so much more out of the SS system than they had put in, then our generation would have to get less than promised. They simply kept taking handouts knowing it would hurt their grandkids. That happens sometimes but it’s not happening to LCPS teachers.

    4. I am not a public employee. Pure and simple. If you think you can do my job, go for it. But based on your inability to perform elementary school math, to comprehend your paycheck and pension, and your inability to reason, it doesn’t bode well for you.

    5. Just yesterday, I attended a one-hour meeting at the LCPS central administration meeting. I am a member and attendee at a local middle school PTA. Contrary to what you think, I have not been “run out of” all the schools. One particular principal (who ranked 900th out of 1140 schools in student growth), in cahoots with attorneys who committed fraud and/or perjury, and a school board who has violated way too many constitutional amendments conspired to shut down criticism ahead of an election and to retaliate against a parent. They will answer for that in federal court. That’s how the law works (at least when the judge is not a graduate of the 7th worst law school in the country).

    You are simply upset that LCPS teachers got caught hiding how much they get paid. You will never get a teacher to tell you exactly how much they should get paid, just that it should be “more”. That’s partly because teachers are unable to figure out how much they are compensated. You didn’t want anybody to catch on to your racket. You specifically didn’t want the public to understand:

    A. Teachers can retire at 52 yrs old with a $50K/yr pension!!!!!!!

    B. The chairman of the school board (who votes to increase his household income every time he votes for teacher pay increase but refuses to disclose it) also failed to follow the conflict of interest law and disclose he’s the right hand man of a billionaire charter school magnate while he tries everything in his power to get more charters in Loudoun.

    C. LCPS was defrauding the federal gov’t by not using growth scores (SGPs) in Loudoun. But in doing so, they lost the right to withhold your names

    You are correct that LCPS has so mismanaged its budget that nixing the salary increases alone can’t fix the budget hole. I’m on record as saying Loudoun should provide both the step increases and a COLA. But with a simple one student per class increase, throttling FDK, and striking the out-of-cycle salary scale increase, our budget is in GREAT shape at the $1.14 tax rate. Deal with it.

  • 2016-03-02 at 3:54 pm

    Hey, SGP, ” If you think you can do my job, go for it?” I have new for you, there are thousands who do your job. You are not special. You are a private employee but you are a federal contractor, therefore, you are taking taxes to pay for your elaborate retirement scheme which is well over $50k a year, despite you only working there for a few years. I propose that we open an investigation into the fraud and waste you generate.

    Many of us came from jobs like yours making twice what we make now. So, we know the financial realities of teaching vs not teaching. Your complaints are all about your own personal disrespect for teachers. I again call upon you to dedicate yourself to bettering society instead of complaining about those that do. Maybe your AM friends appreciate your ridiculous rhetoric and needless, number naysaying. Until they come out to this forum and support you, I am going to assume that they simply don’t exist.

    • 2016-03-02 at 10:08 pm

      CareerSwitcher, getting a little ruffled I see. I agree that I am not “special”. The mothers of my child’s Odyssey of the Mind team last year not only thought what I was saying was “common sense” but could easily conduct the analysis that I have presented at LCSB meetings and online. Unfortunately, you and many of your fellow teachers haven’t been able to (i) interpret what’s on your paycheck, (ii) remotely calculate your pension’s value, or (iii) explain why so much of the information coming out of your information is inaccurate. I think my favorite was the finance department explaining that the biggest cause for the rise in “per pupil spending” was “enrollment growth”. Or maybe the fact that neither your Chief of Staff, Superintendent, or board members even questioned that answer until I pointed out how irrational that was. Are you seriously defending the logical skills of LCPS employees against tech workers?

      I do remember a discussion I had with a “career switcher” at a debate tournament last spring. He explained to me that (a) none of his advanced students were interested in actually learning, they just wanted an “A”, (b) that he could arbitrarily determine that much of what was taught in the standards was useless and could eliminate it, (c) all LCPS students would need to retake calculus in college so “what’s the point”, and (d) he didn’t care how teachers were evaluated even if some ineffective teachers were marked great. He claimed he had “great skills” in the private sector. Turns out he was in marketing and/or HR but was teaching high school math now. Go figure.

      One of the debate students joined the conversation and refuted nearly everything he said. She said she was frustrated that her current teacher couldn’t teach worth a #*$# and that the kids had to get their own tutor to have a prayer of passing the AP exam. She said she definitely didn’t want to retake calculus and actually wanted to learn the material for it’s own sake. She needed a quality teacher, not a “career switcher” who thought he was great.

      I don’t know if you are effective or not. I do know that you have been unable to comprehend elementary level math on these boards. You have not refuted a single claim I have made. Despite me asking to raise the level of critical teaching subjects like STEM once a real competency-based evaluation system is implemented, you accuse me of only wanting to deprive teachers of their compensation. I will repeat for you again. We don’t object to paying effective teachers well. We DO OBJECT to paying ineffective teachers $100K+ in salary and another $20-25K in pension benefits for only working about 180 days/year. You can call that bitter all you want. We resent having to teach our kids at home the material that some teachers do not even understand and then hearing about how all of you are “underpaid” and “under appreciated”.

      So why don’t we make a deal. I will visit your class for a day or two and teach your students. You can come visit my work site and try to prevent everybody from realizing you have no clue how to perform our private sector jobs. But you might want to study up on that grade school math before you agree. Deal?

      • 2016-03-03 at 1:21 pm

        When you say, we, I assume you are talking about your AM fantasy friends. Correct?

        As far as coming to my classroom, that would be great expect that you are banned from schools. Nice try, though.

        By the way, don’t forget you would have to develop lesson plans presentations, homework, and assessments for that one day in school, for each class. So, since you are new to the subject, add in 2 hours minimum to prepare for each block. I’d like to see you come to the days I have 3 different classes so let’s see you work 6+ hours to prepare.

        While we are at it, if this is going to work, you have to trade your $600 you earn a day for my $300 a day

        • 2016-03-04 at 11:39 am

          Are you suggesting that you teach Seldens Landing? I am not banned from anywhere but a school with a principal who violated FERPA and then unconstitutionally banned a parent for criticizing that violation. In fact, part of your taxes will go toward paying for that LCPS violation. But I’m sure you are glad to shell out bucks for LCPS officials who violate the law in order to block criticism of you and your colleagues. Nice. And that doesn’t even include the costs LCPS will have to pay despite losing their attempt to block the release of SGP scores. Do you teach in grades 4-8? Should I release yours first?

          Let’s summarize what we have learned from CareerSwitcher

          – he/she is woefully inefficient at planning lessons. By his own words, he’s been a teacher for several years now but it takes him 2 hours just to prepare for a lesson he’s already given multiple times. In fact, that lesson has been given millions of times by other teachers but he is so arrogant that he thinks he must prepare a custom presentation (do you design and build your own car from scratch too) that “only he” can design. In the real world, we document our designs/products and re-use them. That’s called efficiency and allows productivity (and standard of living) to improve. We are reminded that you have obviously never taken Econ 101.

          – He’s still not very good at math. He claims his income was “cut in half”. From this most recent post, he estimates private sector pay at $600 day and teacher pay at $300/day. But that’s before the pension benefits of 18% (= $354/day) and the fact that teachers work much less than regular workers (~185 days vs 235 days) so that brings teachers up to $450/day. At best, your compensation dropped by 1/4 and due to virtually guaranteed pay raises, you will catch up later in your career, not to mention that it’s virtually impossible for CareerSwitcher to get fired. Please tell me you don’t teach STEM.

          – He’s pretty much a coward as he hides behind a screen name and it’s pretty obvious he never even thought about volunteering to serve in the military.

          – He’s not very good at insulting or embarrassing others. Hint: if you want to get under somebody’s skin or identify their weakness, you have to reference something that the person actually cares about. Otherwise, you demonstrate that you are getting destroyed in the main argument and are just trying to see if anything sticks. You obviously can’t refute the fact that teachers are completely unaccountable, get enormous pensions, and work far-far-fewer hours than private sector workers. Are you really the best rep of the LCPS teachers union?

  • 2016-03-03 at 8:09 am

    This is a nice thought. But why should people want their taxes increased for things they don’t get to use. The gov just vetoed a bill that would have allowed home schoolers to have also played on these teams. Since this is being denied – then why should these people – people who don’t have and will never have kids – people that send their children to private schools – but forced to pay for a field upgrade or anything else. Some of these things are wants not needs – school is to teach reading, writing and arithmetic – everything else is gravy and in some cases – indoctrination – and parental infringement


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