Ziegler Proposes $1.56B Loudoun Schools Budget

Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler introduced his proposed $16 billion budget Wednesday, seeking a 5.9% increase over the current fiscal year budget, and to bring International Baccalaureate to Loudoun schools, foreign languages to elementary schools and an average 5% raise for teachers.

The spending plan, this year titled the “Superintendent’s Estimate of Needs,” would require a 7.5% increase in local tax funding to a total of $1.09 billion, $75.6 million more than this year.

The year-over-year growth in the budget will once again outpace student enrollment growth. The student population is projected to grow by 1.7%, to an estimated 83,039. That total is 3.3% lower than the enrollment projections—projections that proved too high—that formed the base of the current budget, about 3,000 fewer students.

The proposed spending increase, Ziegler said, is driven by climbing health insurance costs, increases in teacher salaries and the highest level of inflation since 1982. Of the $88.5 million increase over the current year’s budget, $80.2 million is attributed to employee compensation and the launch of a collective bargaining program. The school district is also seeing the population of students who need additional support, such as English language learners, grow more quickly than the population overall. He said $11.9 million was needed to keep up with inflation.

Ziegler said the school system’s proposed spending works out to $18,779 per student, which he said was one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in the Washington, DC region. The per-pupil cost is 9.6% increase over the current year and 23% over the FY21 budget. The statewide average cost per student is $12,216.

Enrollment coming in lower than previous projections was a sticking point for board members.

“We would like to see how we can justify the increase in the budget, even though we have a reduction in the enrollment,” Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn) said. “I think have some way to display it in a matrix would be helpful for me and for Loudoun residents. That’s kind of a big shift.”

Ziegler responded saying that modest growth was still anticipated for the student body of the next several years.

Expectations for population growth are underscored in Ziegler’s Capital Improvement Projects fund proposal. Several new school buildings will be deferred for several years, resulting in the $163,990,000 in construction projects that had been planned for this year dropping to $91,065,000, a 44% drop off. Ziegler said he does not want to underestimate the division’s need to accommodate more student growth than expected for next year.

“My biggest worry is that we will be surprised with a huge influx of students in one year, and the possibility of being caught unawares and unprepared to handle a huge number of enrollees in a year,” Ziegler said.

The 5% teacher raises would include any step-increases that employees were scheduled to receive. For example, if a teacher was scheduled for a 2% step increase next year, the proposed raise would account for the remaining three percent.

“Some of the teachers would receive a little bit more, some would receive a little bit less, with the focus going to further reducing the gap for our mid-year and late-year teachers,” Ziegler said, noting the ongoing effort to better match the pay bands of other school districts in the region.

New initiatives in Ziegler’s proposed budget include introducing world languages to elementary schools, beginning International Baccalaureate in two high schools, new supports for English language learners and extracurriculars, and enhancements to student mental health supports.

Ziegler’s proposal also includes $3.3 million held in reserve in anticipation of collective bargaining for school employees, and a proposal to hire 17 full-time substitute teachers to address difficulties in finding substitutes.

And despite new programs such as International Baccalaureate and a new school opening, Elaine E. Thompson Elementary with the budgeting equivalent of 40 full-time positions or FTEs, the school district would see its projected staffing drop by 183.1 FTEs overall based on lower-than-projected enrollment.

Based on the latest guidance from the county administration, Ziegler said, his proposal is $7.3 million more than the county has said will be available to transfer to schools.

“I think this is a very thoughtful budget,” Vice Chairman Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) said after the presentation. “I appreciate that it incorporates a lot of the things that we as a board or we in conjunction with staff have discussed over the last six months in committee meetings and board meetings and previous budget conversations.”

The School Board’s first budget work session is scheduled for Jan. 11, and the first public hearing on Jan. 25, with a vote on the budget expected Feb. 2.

This story was updated Jan. 6 at 2:28 p.m.

15 thoughts on “Ziegler Proposes $1.56B Loudoun Schools Budget

  • 2022-01-05 at 7:30 pm
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    Pouring ever-increasing money into a failed system is not putting the kids first.

    I wonder how much Ziegler has budgeted for additional legal representation and settlements?

    • 2022-01-08 at 1:43 pm
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      You’re quick to call it a failed system. I shudder to think what you might consider a great educational system. Why don’t you offer some of that instead of just snarky gripes?

  • 2022-01-05 at 7:35 pm
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    I know there will be some grumbling about Dr. Ziegler’s proposed budget. There may even be a scale-back, if public outcry occurs. But I commend Dr. Ziegler for dreaming big. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” His plans for International Baccalaureate in two high schools, world languages in elementary schools & mental health supports are wonderful. (I learned French in Montessori school as a young boy & greatly appreciate the experience.) Happy New Year Loudoun!

    • 2022-01-07 at 2:05 pm
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      Reaching big? The man covered Sexual Assaults.

      Zielger ought to be next in the Un-Employment Line.

    • 2022-01-07 at 7:32 pm
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      Beth, Ziegler sure “reached big” alright. Ziegler and LCPS have reduced the number of instructional days by 10 from 180 days to 170 days!

      I know some folks thought that LCPS would use resources for “learning loss”. Wow, are you gullible. Since when has LCPS ever cared about kids? This SB (and the last 2 at least) have been about employees, teachers, administrators and anyone who can monetarily gain from the LCPS trough except students and taxpayers.

      Beth, are you hoping for a 150-day school year next year? Would that make your lazy teacher friends happy?

      • 2022-01-10 at 9:54 am
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        My name is Tim. It’s not Beth. Not only do you have the wrong gender — you have the entirely wrong person. Please get with the program!

  • 2022-01-06 at 5:58 am
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    Here are some questions a BOS member might ask if they were honestly interested in whether state statute 22.1-79 was being followed by the school board. What is the minimum class size allowable under the budget other than for a handicapped class? What is the minimum bus occupancy size that will be allowable under the budget other than a special ed bus? What is the expected hourly rate being paid for department heads who have a reduced teaching load and now a reduced school day load, including the automatic contribution to retirement, vacations days and expected snow days? Since the quoted figure per student is only operational expenses which does not include capital we should know that estimate as well. 🙂

  • 2022-01-06 at 8:50 am
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    A 5% raise for teachers AND $3.3m for collective bargaining. Wow Just Wow.

    • 2022-01-07 at 7:34 pm
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      It’s much worse than that. Note that if you are a Step 15 or higher, you are essentially locked in to LCPS. If you move to another district as say a Step 20, that district will only give you a Step 15 salary to start. Same goes for LCPS.

      Yet, LCPS gave our raises no less than 6.2% to all teachers in Steps 13-28. Yep, a retired-in-place 50-yr-old Step 28 teacher earning $120K/year (salary + pension contribution) gets a $5950+ raise. There is 0% chance that teacher leaves for better compensation anywhere else.

  • 2022-01-06 at 12:05 pm
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    Just a couple of comments on what appears to be a trojan horse type presentation:
    1 LCPS managers, directors and executives get the SAME percent raise as teachers so please notice how paying teachers more is being emphasized as the sales pitch but significantly more increase in pay comes to management as their starting point is much higher.
    2 Medical coverage is already deeply discounted by LCPS so any increase to costs that also increases the budget means they have already decided to maintain deeply discounted family medical coverage.
    3 IB is a system of education just as the AOS program is which is why it was centralized. LCPS has as a mission critical concern the provision of universal educational quality which by doing IB in only two schools would breach this long held view. Now what is exasperating for me is that the first two years of the AOS program is a transcript numbered course which could be taught at ALL high schools at no added cost yet this Superintendent and this school board. WHY NOT DO THIS?
    4 Parental input should be included in the school board review of the. Superintendent plan meaning ONLY employees who have acceptable parental reviews should be eligible for a raise. The continued view that all teachers are the same is pure fiction and should no longer be prescribed to.
    5 Before considering pay scales it would be an appropriate disclosure to show what the current “hourly” pay is for all employees including the automatic, tax free contribution to their pension, vacation payment, 10 snow days and average sick days taken. 🙂

  • 2022-01-06 at 1:45 pm
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    Ziegler lied to the school board. He lied to parents. He lied to students. He lied to teachers. He is a sexual predator enabler.

    Even by the already low standards for school superintendents, Ziegler is at the bottom of the pile.

    Loudoun deserves so much better.

  • 2022-01-06 at 2:38 pm
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    Loudoun parents need educational reparations for at least the past two years of having to school at home or find alternative educational environments. $1.5B for these government schools is absurd.

  • 2022-01-06 at 2:46 pm
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    I’m speechless, but not surprised. I especially like that “year-over-year growth in the budget will once again outpace student enrollment growth.” The teachers receiving a 5% pay increase is generous – my spouse received a 3% raise and I received 2%. Does this mean the teachers are now committed to teaching classes in person?

    Finally, allocating $18,779/student is just another reason why the money needs to follow the child. My children went to parochial schools. It was money well spent and more cost effective than LCPS. Currently, in NoVA, you can send your child to a K-8 parochial school for $7,500-$8,500 and St. Paul VI starts at $18,460 (there is financial assistance available).

    • 2022-01-07 at 7:40 pm
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      DLJD, let’s break down the budget a little further.

      1. The FY23 budget sets an all-time high for per pupil spending increases. Typically, LCPS grew per pupil costs by 4.3% per year. This is high compared to all other districts. Note this accounts for enrollment growth already. Last year, that figure bumped up to 7.8%! And this year, the increase in per pupil costs is at an all-time high of 9.6%!!

      2. At the same time, LCPS lowered the number of instructional days in the year. That was their “solution” to learning loss from the pandemic!

      3. Combined with the shorter year, that means that LCPS is spending an astronomical 16.0% more per pupil to provide each instructional hour/day. Compare that to the (regionally high) 4.3% average in #1.

      4. The $18,779 number is just for operational expenses. It doesn’t include the capital costs of the kids. All those things like renovations, paying the bonds to cover school construction, etc. That adds at least $3,000-4,000 per year. Included, that means we could afford to give every parent a $22,000+/year stipend to educate their child. Would any parent keep their kid in LCPS if given that option?

      Besides protecting the “rights” of LCPS teachers to prey on kids and have “virtual snow days” when all other professionals are working, this is the biggest boondoggle in Loudoun history. And not a single teacher has the courage to speak up for the best interests of the students.

  • 2022-01-09 at 6:25 pm
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    ZERO CREDABILITY MR ZIEGLER.

    You have been caught in numerous lies and actively protected a boy that went on to attack yet another high school student.

    Parents are taking their kids out of your unsafe Loudoun schools. You need LESS money, not more.

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