Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams on Thursday presented his recommended $1.395 billion FY 2021 operating budget that calls for a 10.8 percent increase in local tax funding.
The proposal envisions the creation of 521.25 additional full-time equivalent positions—bringing the school division’s staffing to a total of12,320—and $113.6 million in additional spending. Nearly half of the expense increase would be used to boost staff salaries. For teachers, salaries are expected to increase between $3,726 and $8,029, with an overall average increase of $5,445 for the division’s 6,592 teachers, according to his presentation.
Administrators are projecting a 1.9 percent increase in enrollment next year, 1,580 new students. To address that growth, the budget allocates $31.9 million to maintain class sizes and open one new school,LightridgeHigh School, in August.
Another$25.6 million is proposed for enhancements and reallocations. Among those proposals is to hire more teachers for special education, gifted education, English language learner programs and computer science, as well as more security officers and contractors.
Williams proposes a $6 million investment in efforts to address equity concerns. He plans to create a supervisor of equity position to report to the recently created direct of equity and to create a team of a supervisor and three instructional facilitators to focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction. Two teachers will be hired to expand programs aimed at bringing more diversity to gifted education programs. Five new positions will be charged with reducing discipline disproportionality and decreasing use of hateful speech and racial slurs.
Williams also proposes to expand the universal free breakfast program from four schools to 13 schools, as well as to decrease lunch prices by 10 cents across the board.
The budget would eliminate application fees for the Academies of Loudoun programs. It also retains funding to provide transportation to Loudoun students who attend Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, a service the previous School Board eyed cutting.
Overall, the proposed budget increases the division’s per-student cost by $972, to $16,213.
Williams said he was enthusiastic about the proposed budget. “Students only get one shot at K through 12 education, so it is important that we get it right,” he said.
The information was presented to the School Board only three days after members took the oath of office to begin their four-year term. Up to six work sessions are planned over the next several weeks to provide detailed briefings on spending plan, with final adoption scheduled for Feb. 4. The first work session will be Tuesday afternoon.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed County Administrator Tim Hemstreet to base his budget recommendations on the revenue that would be generated by holding the current real estate tax rate level. Under that condition, the school division’s budget talks begin with an anticipated $22.4 million funding gap. The $1.045 tax rate is expected to result in an allocation of $71.8 million for schools. Williams’ budget would require a $94.1 million increase in local tax funding.