Superintendent Eric Williams tonight unveiled his list of recommended cuts to the Loudoun school system’s operating budget for next fiscal year, and they’re not as painful as some School Board members feared.
Although the Board of Supervisors’ agreed to provide the county’s public schools with a 7.7 percent single-year increase in local funding, the adopted budget still falls $5.5 million short of the School Board’s funding request of $1.12 billion for fiscal year 2018.
At a meeting tonight, Williams told the School Board which line items he suggests nixing first. His list includes 15 reductions, some as small as $28,000 for fleet fuel and maintenance and $120,600 to no longer provide a 2 percent increase in stipends for employees who help with co-curricular activities. The largest single reduction he is recommending is $1.7 million to replace security cameras. Another $1.25 million in savings can come from no longer needing a one-week pay supplement to cover checks for 12-month classified employees amid pay roll changes. The finance department came up with an alternate solution, Williams said.
“The one reduction that we heard some disappointment about was those co-curricular stipends not being increased. Secondary principals expressed some disappointment with that,” Williams said.
Several School Board members breathed a preverbal sigh of relief as the superintendent went down his list, which was lengthy but did not include any single big cuts.
The one item listed as a “possible cut” was to slow the pace at which the school system expands full-day kindergarten offerings. The school system could save almost $2.5 million if it increased the percentage of kindergarteners who receive a full school day to 75 percent next year instead of 82 percent. This school year, just more than half of the county’s kindergartners attend a full-day program.
But Williams told board members there are other areas in the budget—mostly in the Support Services Department—that can be trimmed.
“I’m a bit surprised—I didn’t think we’d be able to make it without reducing full-day kindergarten,” Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said to Williams. “I’m very pleased that there are other ways to come up with this.”
He and a few other board members said they’d like to see the co-curricular stipend increase stay in the budget. “In the last five years, those stipends have only gone up 1 percent—it hasn’t even kept up with inflation,” Hornberger said. “That’s a morale issue for those who are taking on additional responsibilities.”
Tonight’s fairly placid budget discussion comes less than two weeks after the School Board debated whether to set into motion the process to close Lincoln and Hamilton elementary schools to save $1.15 million. Four board members voted in support of holding a public hearing on the matter, but the majority opposed even considering closing the schools.
“We’ve had $20 million gaps and we have not had to close schools to make things work,” School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said at the April 6 meeting.
The School Board will hold a work session Thursday to talk about how best to reconcile the budget, ahead of adopting a final budget Monday.