The Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday finalized a series of reductions to balance its nearly $1.3 billion fiscal year 2020 operating budget, making up a $2.1 million shortfall as a result of receiving less state funding than anticipated.
Most of the $2.1 million—nearly 80 percent—is being covered by shifting around unspent fiscal year 2019 funds, covering the year from July 2018 to June 2019. The amount needed to achieve a balanced budget is relatively small, noted Assistant Superintendent Sharon Willoughby, pointing out that last year’s reconciliation process involved finding $14 million. This year, the county Board of Supervisors fully funded the School Board’s local tax funding request.
The fiscal year 2020 operating budget is nearly 8 percent higher than last year’s version at $94.5 million. The additional funding will allow the county to maintain current class sizes and open two new schools this fall, Waxpool Elementary School and Independence High School. LCPS is also planning to open another school in fall 2020, Lightridge High School near Aldie.
In their final adjustments, staff members identified three areas in which program costs will be lower than the budgeted figures, including saving $39,000 in the creation of a full-time position to advance equity and cultural competence throughout the school system. The board had earmarked $200,000 for the position, and after finalizing the job description, it established with a salary of $161,000.
Superintendent Eric Williams also recommended pulling $100,000 from the fiscal year 2019 textbooks and digital resources budget and replacing it next year. “This would be a priority purchase for appropriated, unspent fiscal year 2020 funds,” he stated.
The final amount not covered by shifting fiscal year 2019 surplus money was related to fuel. The board reduced the current budget related to fuel costs by $300,000, an amount that will be made up through updating actual fuel costs vs. projections related to the 2019 and 2020 budgets.
The remaining $1.72 million shortfall will be replaced with other unspent 2019 funds. This includes $925,000 in equipment to upgrade the school system’s network capabilities; $500,000 for Internet, VPN and DMZ upgrades to improve the school’s data center functionality; more than $250,000 for repair work relating to removing obsolete technology; and around $45,000 for tables and chairs.
Willoughby noted that the funding can easily be covered by the projected $11.4 million carryover from the general fund operating budget designated for FY20. “With $11.4 million, we can absolutely absorb that $1.7 million,” she said.
The School Board is scheduled to formally adopt the budget reconciliation plan at its next meeting.