The Loudoun School Board adopted its $1.5 billion Fiscal Year 2023 budget request last night with a vote of 8-1, sending the largest bottom line in division history to the Board of Supervisors.
The board is asking for a 5.6% increase from the current year’s budget despite a 7% drop in student enrollment.
Andrew Hoyler (Broad Run) voted against the budget, citing a potential $15 million funding gap from real estate taxes, that may require budget reconciliation in the spring.
The budget includes an International Baccalaureate program—a program that Tom Marshall (Leesburg) and John Beatty (Catoctin) voted to cut—year-round stipends for performing arts teachers, $1,000 stipends for all special education employees, and an average 5% raise for all teachers.
The IB program in its first year in the division will cost $563,000, to cover salaries for one program supervisor and two teachers.
While Marshall said that the IB program was unnecessary, Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) said that such a program is an expectation for a school division of Loudoun County Public Schools’ size. He said he had spoken to families who opted to not move to Loudoun County because of the lack of an IB program. Superintendent Scott Ziegler said that of the 14 largest school divisions in the state, Loudoun is the only one that does not offer the program. The IB program does not require admission, and any student may take the courses.
“It is a worldwide program that has rigorous standards and research-backed results,” Serotkin said.
Serotkin said an IB program is a necessity for a school division, and LCPS appears to be the last to have gotten that memo.
“I do see it as a need. We have provided ample STEM opportunities and now arts and theater have been bolstered,” Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) said, adding students with an interest in social sciences need similar advanced opportunities.
The next step will be training staff in the program. The program will be rolled out at two unnamed schools during the 2023-2024 school year. The program will be open to primarily to students at the host schools, but will have spaces for students across the division.
“There is no reason that our sole opportunity for marquee learning is at the Academies of Loudoun. We need to have more opportunities for our students to pursue their interests, pursue their career goals, and to participate in a course of study that matches their interest and prepares them for post-secondary life. … It is something that should be an expectation of our community,” Ziegler said.
The additional stipends for the performing arts are represented in the budget by a $2.4 million placeholder, pending a staff review of what stipends in a community-presented proposal calling for $1.9 million are duplicative of current stipends. The funding is a salve for the performing arts community, which has turned out in droves to address the board during public comment portions of meetings over the past six months. Teachers will receive stipends reflective of their year-round involvement with the programs, as opposed to a single season stipend.
Morse made the motion to award $1,000 stipends to all special education staff members, including teachers, behavioral assistants, teaching assistants, which passed unanimously.
“We cannot find enough special education staffers and special education teachers. … The teachers can be subject to hitting, biting, cursing, physical violence,” Morse said.
Harris Mahedavi’s (Ashburn) motion to establish an Internal Auditing General Office with three employees for a cost of $610,143 passed with unanimous support.
Ziegler’s recommended budget included the elimination of parking fees and student athletics fees. The board voted to eliminate parking fees for students, which is a reduction of $650,000 in revenues, but to keep athletics fees which generate $810,000.
Hoyler proposed a million dollar savings by using current Chromebooks for incoming kindergarteners to use as a class set. His motion passed 7-2.
Several times throughout the meeting, Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) emphasized using caution. She said the board needed to be conservative in what it is asking to fund in one year, concerned that the Board of Supervisors might take issue with individual items on the budget.
The Fiscal Year 2023 budget request will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 10 at 6 p.m.