Loudoun School Staff Finds Fixes for Budget Cuts

Two weeks ago, the Board of Supervisors surprised the School Board by cutting $28.6 million from its adopted Fiscal Year 2022 budget, demanding reductions to planned staff raises and other line-item adjustments.

On Tuesday, the School Board got the first look at the changes proposed by Interim Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler and his staff that would be needed to rebalance its budget, and the outlook is not as bleak as expected.

An increase in state funding reduced the shortfall by $8.7 million. And then an unexpected ruling by the state Department of Education cleared the way for new federal emergency aid to pay for plans to expand summer school offerings, saving another $7.7 million. Then the staff found $4.5 million in planned one-time purchases that could be paid for using the year-end surplus.

Those changes cut the funding shortfall to just under $2 million. A proposal to drop the $1.9 million earmark to begin a collective bargaining program and to not hire six non-mandated health clinic specialists would bring the budget back into balance without touching the raise plan or other School Board priorities.

Following an April 15 public hearing and work session, the board plans to adopt the revised $1.48 billion budget April 20.

Although the budget process may end relatively painlessly, School Board members are still stinging from the unexpected battle with supervisors. They especially objected to the county board’s efforts to dictate line-item spending—not only to cut staff raises, but pushing for the elimination of fees charged to student athletes.

During Tuesday’s meeting, School Board members again stressed that state law provides them exclusive authority to create the budget, while the county board has control over how much local funding to provide. They said they didn’t want supervisors thinking they could wield such control in future budgets.

“I don’t want to play that game,” Jeff Morse (Dulles) said. “I am not going to support any of these line-item requests that came from the Board of Supervisors.”

Morse said that the staff and the School Board have done the detailed research needed to set the division’s priorities and that work shouldn’t be undermined by supervisors’ last-minute freelancing. He pointed to an item on that night’s agenda that listed 40 teacher resignations and retirements as evidence of the importance of the staff compensation plan.

Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn) expressed a sense of betrayal after the School Board adopted a budget that was well within the Board of Supervisors’ spending guidelines.

“I thought we were being thoughtful, were being fiscally responsible,” he said. “We presented a very thoughtful, very pragmatic, needs-based budget to the Board of Supervisors. What did they do? They cut us down further and put us in this line-item approach.”

Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) said the supervisors’ actions served to prove a point he has been trying to make—to simply ignore the county board’s spending guidance and put forward a budget that covers the division’s needs. This year, he said, the state and federal governments proved to be better partners in meeting Loudoun’s education needs than did the Board of Supervisors.

He also challenged the “audacity” of supervisors to attempt to direct the dropping of athletic fees, an estimated $810,000 line item, saying a higher priority would be to stop charging students to take advanced placement tests.

“It is quite infuriating, isn’t it?” Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) said. 

Later in the meeting Morse acknowledged the competing interests the two boards face.

“The two boards work together very well. This is the one area of most contention between the two board. And this happens frequently, some years it is stronger than other years,” he said. “When they fully fund out budget it is like icing on a cake—that’s awesome. But that doesn’t always happen. They have different responsibilities. They are looking at the entire county. They’re looking at incomes and expanses and trying to determine what to county needs to do to be successful in the next year. We have a mandate to provide a needs-based budget for the School Division. Those two visions don’t always line up and that’s OK. I think the constructive dialogue needs to continue and I think it is important for us to come to grips on the relationship and the responsibilities of each body. We are most effective when we do our job and they do their job.”

“We agree on the majority of the issues that come before us. That’s just not going to get the press and the national coverage,” Morse said.

13 thoughts on “Loudoun School Staff Finds Fixes for Budget Cuts

  • 2021-04-14 at 11:13 am
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    Cut the budget. And then cut it again. And cut it a third time.

    It’s bloated. EVERYONE knows it is. This is simply a government-run theft of taxpayer dollars on a massive scale.

  • 2021-04-14 at 11:58 am
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    Funny how the LCPS budget staff always just makes it work. When you have a nearly $1.5 billion budget, there is room.

    Hopefully the School Board is over their tantrum and ready to get back to focusing on their jobs. Not that they have shown they really know what that is anyway.

  • 2021-04-14 at 2:20 pm
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    Average salary has increased from 41,800 to 62,000 in 4 years per the LCPS website.

  • 2021-04-14 at 4:10 pm
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    I was at the Board of Supervisors Budget meeting when Dr. Ziegler shared inflated numbers that could not be justified (for example comparisons of LCPS employees raises and county employee raises) that was extremely offensive and untrue. BOS was fact checking on the spot and LCPS couldn’t handle it. BOS clearly, and graciously, explained their process, their predicament (with commercial real estate tax rates dropping that residents would have to pay more to offset), and to include them in the process and even in the meal they were having during the break.

    School board was viciously arrogant and indifferent to what the county went through while schools were closed and wellness checks became the responsibility of the county. The county remained open and running business as usual while LCPS didn’t even have a plan to reopen. Thus the public went to the BOS out of desperation for a school board who wouldn’t listen to their concerns or struggles. Instead school board mocked parents repeatedly, just as they mocked the BOS. And catered to special interest groups.

    The facts are simple — the BOS knew that LCPS was getting more money and it would be a hardship to give them all the funding from their locality when state and federal assistance were going to the public schools. LCPS was incapable of answering simple questions, Finance Chair Matt Letourneau (Dulles) clearly visibly frustrated with the power play, said that if Dr. Williams was there he would be able to answer those questions.

    This was simply bonfire of the vanities with two lobbyist entities creating a divisive and hostile divide between parents and board of supervisors. PTA and LEA joined and PTA threw BOS under the bus while Chair Sheridan blatantly showed preferential treatment of lobbyists over local governments. LCPS is currently unregulated, inconsistent, each school has its own individual funding, and nobody calls the school board out on this. Why would the BOS give LCPS funds that were already coming from a different source? It was very well explained and the hissy fits on the school board show that coddling is the only way to reach this board. Quite frankly it was an embarrassing discrimination of county employees being scorned by the school board because they weren’t as special as educators.

    FYI — The county kept running while school buildings were closed, yet LEA wouldn’t return into the buildings and PTA campaigned for special interests. What is missing is respect for the county employees and what they endured with so much less than the inflated annual LCPS school board budget. Even the superintendent was able to make things work, but still the school board bitches and blames, because that is what incompetent people do — act out and avoid accountability. When are the elections? Can’t come soon enough.

    I am repulsed by how disrespectful the school board is to the community. Even public speakers aren’t allowed in the school board meeting. It is the opposite of the “welcoming, inclusive, and affirming” atmosphere they project. It can be welcoming, inclusive, and affirming…. if you tell them what they want to hear. Otherwise it is nonstop retaliation from a Mean Girl hit squad. It feels like the school board members are middle schoolers, not school board professionals welcoming oversight and accountability as professionals. All I see are excuses. And bias towards anyone not PTA or LEA affiliated. Which in collective bargaining means, those two entities own LCPS and that is why so many are leaving. They are tired of the power struggles and incompetent board. CRT is the least of our worries. Discrimination and bias as well as bullying is standard operating procedures. And I don’t see anyone stopping it.

    I am a veteran and continuedly get discriminated against with my advocacy work with the school board. Because they would rather have someone else take my place. I’m not stupid, I’m just not blindly loyal to a broken system. LCPS needs to be investigated for discrimination against veterans and military families. There are no procedures or regulations where there should be for transient military families. Each school does their own thing, that is the LCPS way. Denial by willful ignorance. Can’t run a top notch school system without a consistent way of educating the masses. And I just don’t think the school board cares enough to make things better. More hope for the next board though. I’ll definitely get in trouble for sharing this, but at this point retaliation is the only thing I can expect from those that “oversee” LCPS. Only some matter, the rest don’t. Why pretend that isn’t true? It needs to be addressed, not avoided. And our current chair isn’t capable of having those deeper conversations our community needs to heal. Because “yay” is what they say all day. Except to the BOS of course…

  • 2021-04-14 at 4:12 pm
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    What is missing from the current school board is simple… objectivity and accountability.

    If you tell them what they want to hear, they will be your best friend. If you tell them what they NEED to hear, you will be their worst enemy. That sums up my interactions with the current school board and their unapologetic bias.

  • 2021-04-14 at 4:18 pm
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    Interesting how they “found $4.5 million.” Is that because they didn’t bother to make a tight budget before the “cut” by the BOS–maybe because they figure it’s the taxpayers funding it, so it doesn’t matter? Or was it because they planned to “find” the $4.5M after all the budgeting was done and use it for something else? Either someone wasn’t doing their job in making the budget, or someone was playing games to get more than they were supposed to. Either way, it shows how a government monopoly, having no requirement to spend money wisely and make a profit, or even provide a good service, wastes our money. There is no accountability, and because any competition is penalized by parents having to pay for a service they weren’t using, and then again to provide the same service elsewhere, there is no incentive for the government school system to improve.

    • 2021-04-15 at 8:37 am
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      To make a bad situation worse, the school board and board of supervisors want to adopt unionization of school and county employees.
      Their collective bargaining initiatives will ensure taxpayers and parent’s get screwed even more by supervisors and school board members being paid off by unions and special interest groups.
      Vote out these clowns before it’s too late.

    • 2021-04-17 at 11:25 pm
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      It is much worse than that. According to LCPS own forecast, they will not be able to spend (“surplus”) $40M in FY21 alone. The budget is beyond inflated and highly exaggerated.

  • 2021-04-14 at 5:50 pm
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    The best thing you can do as a parent at this point, is to leave Loudoun County. I say that as someone who recently did just that. Our family moved elsewhere in the country recently, and all I can say is… WOW.

    When we were in LC, all of this drama with the school board, the BOS, parents… it all felt normal. Sad and frustrating, but normal – everyone is dealing with this kind of stuff, right? It wasn’t until we moved somewhere else that we realized just how bad LCPS has become. Our new school district is remarkably similar to LCPS in demographic, size, and reputation (it’s widely considered one of the very best school districts in New England). It was a bit of a shock at first… how the school board here is functional and professional, and interacts positively with parents and the overall community. How the kids here are and have been in school 5 days a week for several weeks and it’s all fine and happy and the sky hasn’t fallen. There are never, EVER wars on their district’s social media pages between parents, teachers, and administrators – heck, there aren’t even any nasty comments or snide remarks (it’s almost shocking how quiet and normal their social media is lol). The district hasn’t been in any national news since the last time their high school won a big award last year, and there are no major controversies brewing at every turn of your head. It’s just… school. As it was always meant to be.

    All of this is to say that if you think what’s happening at LCPS is normal, and that this kind of stuff happens everywhere (especially with the frequency that things happen in LC)… think again. And then consider how much money you pay in taxes, and whether your children are ACTUALLY reaping any of “benefits” of being in the LCPS school district. I was never mad at LCPS when I lived in LC, because I couldn’t see beyond it. But, like an unhealthy relationship, I can see it for what it is now that I’ve left. And folks… it’s not good. I sincerely hope it can change for the better, but either way, I’m glad I won’t have to stick it out and wait for it to (maybe, probably not) happen.

    • 2021-04-15 at 1:23 pm
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      My son-in-law teaches in a public school in New England. His district has had in-person classes since August with the exception of a few weeks in February. The school remained open even after the principal contracted COVID – zero students became infected.

      We are looking forward to retiring to that community next Spring; can’t wait to get out of the insanity of Loudoun County and its obscene taxes.

  • 2021-04-14 at 7:06 pm
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    Our schools have been closed for about a year.

    WHAT savings resulted from this? While some of our busses were delivering food, what was the saving from parking the busses and the drivers?

    Will the county CONDEMN the actions of school board members that compiled an Enemies List? This list includes parents like US, who all want our schools opened. We also want to scrap teaching our kids the critical race theory garbage (which is racist) and we are calling for accountability.

    School board members Beth Barts, Brenda Sheridan, Ian Serotkin, Denise Corbo, Leslee King, and Atoosa Reaser, are reportedly part of a private Facebook group called “Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County” .

    They should all RESIGN NOW!

  • 2021-04-14 at 8:51 pm
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    I do not remember when the LoCo School Board became so arrogant and entitled, and demonstrably mean. The first time I can remember anything like this was when Eric Hornberger was the chairman- he played games with the budget and retaliated against anyone who went against him, on or off the board. It seems the attitude has only grown since then. This school board is lost and LCPS is lost right along with it- they have completely forgotten that their purpose is to focus on education, not the board’s, teachers, or (where did these people come from?) PTA’s social justice issue of the week. The two loons from the PTA who wrote in to this news site recently are way out there…and they need to be removed.

  • 2021-04-17 at 1:34 pm
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    There are just 2 numbers that citzens need to know in deciding whether the FY22 LCPS budget is remotely “fiscally responsible” or “needs-based”?

    1. LCPS is projecting an enrollment increase in FY22 compared to the FY21 budget of just 0.1%.

    2. LCPS is receiving a whopping 8% more funding for that 0.1% enrollment increase.

    Even beyond this universe, such an exorbitant funding increase is ridiculous.

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