Loudoun County schools will get to buy about $3.4 million in items that were initially cut from their budget plan for next fiscal year.
The Loudoun County School Board, at its May 23 meeting, gave the staff the go-ahead to put money left over from the current fiscal year toward maintenance equipment, furniture, and other items that were initially in the fiscal year 2018 budget. The School Board had to trim that initial spending plan by $5.5 million when the county Board of Supervisors agreed to provide less local funding than the schools requested. Still, supervisors sent the public schools 7.65 percent more in local tax funding than last year.
With the carry-over funds, the school system will earmark $250,000 for design and construction plans for Metro schools—urban-style schools that will be built near Loudoun’s future rail stations. It will also dedicate $300,000 to redesign computer labs and other rooms at two over-enrolled middle schools, J. Michael Lunsford and Mercer, to free up more space and another $300,000 to buy equipment, including mowers, tractors and kitchen equipment. Other purchases include a visitor management system ($150,000), server and infrastructure upgrades ($100,000), replacement radios ($450,000), school furniture ($120,600), replacement security cameras ($1.7 million).
The move for the staff to use the carry-over funds did not require formal board action, but several board members said they appreciated having a say.
“Obviously, we’re coming to the point where we know exactly what staff’s plans are, but I think we have responsibility as a School Board to keep a little oversight over those funds,” Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) said, adding that it makes the process more transparent.
Each year, the school system’s Business and Financial Services Department ends up with several million dollars in unspent funds beyond the planned expenses, typically the result of employee turnover. Department staff members said unspent funds could be much greater than $3.4 million by the time fiscal year 2017 ends June 30. That amount represents about .003 percent of the total $1 billion operating budget.
School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) noted that using surplus funds from one fiscal year to purchase items initially on the budget of a future fiscal year is similar to what the Board of Supervisors did to help out the School Board a few months ago. In April, supervisors agreed to use fiscal 2016 surplus to buy school buses, an artificial turf field at Heritage High School, and textbooks.
At its meeting this Tuesday, the School Board is expected to give staff members authority to spend any other unspent funds on items that were ultimately reduced from the budget.