Superintendent Eric Williams unveiled his recommended $1.284 billion spending plan for Loudoun County Public Schools’ next fiscal year at a meeting Tuesday.
His proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2020 requests $94.6 million more than the current fiscal year—a 7.9 percent increase—and sets priorities for pay increases for teachers earlier in their career, boosting staffing for special education and gifted education, immersing more students in computer science, and creating an elementary arts design school.
“This is important for our students,” Williams told the School Board as he outlined the details of his plan. “Students get one shot at a K-12 education, so obviously it’s important that we get it right.”
Roughly half of the revenue hike would be targeted at salary increases. Williams wants to spend about $41.6 million to adjust the teachers’ salary scale to give them better pay earlier in their careers. His proposal would increase the pay of teachers with master’s degrees over their first five years by $6,000.
“We want to give teachers more choices sooner, whether that’s buying a home, saving for retirement or just having a modest amount of disposable income,” Williams said. It would also help retain and attract teachers early in their career, when they’re more likely to transfer jobs, he added.
He also earmarks $17.6 million to give all eligible teachers an annual pay raise, at an average of 2.2 percent; $6.1 million for raises for classified, administrative, and auxiliary positions; and $4.2 million for a 1.5 percent raise for non-teacher full-time employees. His hope is to also increase psychologists’ pay, which is lower than any of Loudoun’s neighboring school divisions, making it difficult to fill the positions. He’s also suggesting slightly raising substitute pay from $110 to $112.75 per day to help keep qualified substitutes to fill in for absent teachers.
Williams says the division will also need $17.8 million to cover the costs of opening two new schools this fall, Waxpool Elementary School and Independence High School, and accommodate a countywide enrollment hike of 1,277 students. He noted that enrollment of students learning English, students from low-income households, and special education students is increasing faster than the general education students.
“This is important to note because it requires significantly more resources to serve students of these populations,” Williams said.
In all, his plan would create 315.9 full-time equivalent positions. That would include adding seven more math facilitators, 18 additional custodians, seven safety and security specialists, and increasing special education and gifted education staffing. More gifted education teachers would help transition gifted education from regional programs to school-based programs. Williams also wants to switch parent liaison positions from part time to full time at the county’s Title I schools, so they can do more to connect families to community resources.
As far as enhancements that will impact students’ day to day lessons, Williams wants to expand the computer immersion program that is currently in three elementary schools to elementary schools countywide. He’s proposing introducing the computer science immersion program at 20 schools next school year, another 20 the following year, and the remaining schools after that. He’s also proposing introducing new elective computer science classes at every middle and high school, as well as integrating computer science and computational thinking across content areas in five of the middle schools.
The proposed budget also plans for an elementary performing arts design school. Williams said he’d unveil more detail about that school, but only said that it would “promote deeper learning of content and competencies through the study of music, dance, voice and theatre arts.”
The superintendent told the School Board that his budget will require $76.3 million more in county dollars and another $21.8 million in state funding next fiscal year. But Williams sounded hopeful that the school system might just get it. He said that the fiscal guidance the county Board of Supervisors has given to County Administrator Tim Hemstreet would actually cover his funding request. Hemstreet is drafting the county budget at the equalized tax rate, the rate at which the average Loudoun homeowner pays the same real estate tax dollar amount despite rising property values.
But supervisors have cautioned school leaders that they may earmark more county tax dollars for the county government this year, with the goal of increasing staffing and improving county employees’ pay.
Williams thanked staff for their work on crafting the proposed spending plan and thanked board members for their work in the coming weeks on the plan.
In addition to several work sessions, the School Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the school administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. The board is scheduled to adopt a budget Feb. 5 and present it to the Board of Supervisors as a formal funding request Feb. 13.