The Budget: What’s at Stake for Loudoun Schools?

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors has begun work on its fiscal year 2017 budget, and members have made no bones about their frustration with the School Board’s requests.

“It’s frustrating to have the School Board come forward with a Capital Improvement Program request that absolutely everybody knows is impossible,” said Finance/Government Operations and Economic Development Committee Chairman Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles.) “It’s not productive.”

Letourneau has already criticized the School Board’s record-setting $1.07 billion proposed budget for requesting more money than the county has to give, even after a small raise in the county’s ability to issue new debt.

“Their staff knew what our fiscal guidelines were and what our limitations were, and yet they proceed with a CIP that is literally impossible,” Letourneau said.

Superintendent Eric Williams has previously defended the school’s construction financing plan.

“We create our CIP based on our needs, so we can’t let county fiscal policy drive our articulation of needs,” Williams said in December. “It was not without hesitation that we proposed the CIP that we did. These schools are needed.”

The Board of Supervisors’ finance committee has now set about trying to fit the School Board’s requests into the county’s Capital Improvement Program, that part of the county budget that funds new infrastructure and facilities. The CIP looks six years ahead.

The School Board has requested $190.6 million for projects above what was in the current CIP. School projects make up the second-largest category of expenses in the CIP at 31 percent, behind only transportation projects.

This year’s budget picture is tight—County Administrator Tim Hemstreet has already suggested the county increase the real estate tax rate to bring in more revenues. Supervisors Letourneau and Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said they were not ready to comment whether the county would need to raise taxes.

The staff-proposed CIP does accelerate plans to construct four new schools: a Dulles North elementary school (ES-23) in Arcola Center, a Dulles South elementary school (ES-28) next to John Champe High School, a Dulles South middle school (MS-7) on Braddock Road in Chantilly, and a Dulles North high school (HS-11) in Brambleton. Some of these projects were not moved as far ahead in the CIP as the School Board has requested. Staff members said they chose projects to accelerate based on which ones have sites picked out, and which can therefore be ready to build sooner.

The CIP also allocates money for removing the modular classrooms from Briar Woods High School in 2019. And after fervent requests from students at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, the CIP now budgets for synthetic turf at Dominion, Freedom, and Heritage High schools in 2021 and 2022.

But that money has to come from somewhere, and several projects around the county have been delayed to make room in the budget for the schools, including a one-year delay in the design and construction of another Dulles South high school (HS-9) which does not yet have a site secured. The county will also push back purchasing property around the courts complex in Leesburg three years to 2020, and financing for a Leesburg South Fire Station was also pushed to 2020 as the Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Management searches for a new site.

And Buona, who has lobbied hard against a bill in the General Assembly that limits proffer agreements between counties and developers, had a parting shot for state legislators:

“For our friends in the General Assembly in Richmond, I think it needs to be said publicly that this CIP has about $72 million of proffer money in it, so for those down there making statements about how we sit on our proffer money, just come look at our CIP and see that is not true.”

The finance committee will hold a CIP work session on Feb. 23. The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the CIP and county budget on April 5.

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13 thoughts on “The Budget: What’s at Stake for Loudoun Schools?

  • 2016-02-12 at 3:47 pm

    I thought LCPS was worth giving a second chance with Dr. Williams taking over. Honeymoon is over. The School Board is obviously the other half of the equation and they failed miserably. You look at the County’s headwinds: proffers may disappear, new study saying commercial (retail) is overbuilt, no real income growth, and Metro hiring a bankruptcy lawyer and this budget is tough. Tough this year and tough in years to come.

    So, let’s expand Full Day Kindergarten!!!!! Let’s expand it and incur addition operating costs and fill classroom seats with additional kindergartens we don’t need when we could fill them with elementary schoolers who actually need a place. And lets consider $8M in press boxes. And new athletic fields instead of classrooms, and….

    Go pound sand LCPS. I hope the BoS:

    1. Keeps the tax rate equalized.
    2. Funds the County needs.
    3. Gives LCPS what is left.

    The School Board has demonstrated that it is the problem and lives in an alternative universe. The BoS needs to put them in their place.

  • 2016-02-13 at 8:10 am

    Ah, but gee David. A majority of the members of the School Board are endorsed candidates by the Loudoun County Republican Committee. I cannot believe you, and those other people who make up the Loudoun County Republican Committee, would ever endorse someone not truly in your corner.

  • 2016-02-13 at 8:53 am

    Well said, David.

    For all those hyperventilating over LCPS’ “needs”, here’s all they have to do to fix the problem.

    1. Increase class size by 1 student/class. No studies show ANY effects for this action. Save $30M+

    2. Cut out-sized salary scale increases from mid-to-senior teachers who almost never leave (lowest attrition rate in the system). Teachers still get step increases AND 0.8% COLA increase. Save ~$2M

    3. Reduce FDK expansion by 1/2. Save $4.5M + reduce additional building needs.

    Done. Painless. Now how about a budget for the next 3 years, LCSB? You know, what normal folks would call your job?

    • 2016-02-14 at 11:01 am

      SGP – please stop suggesting that I need to teach more students in my classroom. Some classes might be able to handle increased sizes but not all of them. Definitely not all of them! Your continued insistence here neglects any differences, subtle and obvious, in classes, students, and subjects.

      The way you write is insulting to me and the other teachers in the county. Your insistence that teachers get adequate raises is simply not true. Even your number o 0.8% COLA number is laughable. How is $10-$15 a week going to make any difference?

      I switched to teaching knowing that I would never make up for the 50% pay cut I accepted. Even with retirement and other benefits, I took a big hit. Now, I am not asking the community for sympathy. I made the change because it was right for me and my family, knowing all the facts. I am not even asking you to respect me personally. I am asking you to stop writing with such animosity and disgust about me and my fellow educators.

  • 2016-02-13 at 11:02 am

    So which of these would you cut, Mr. Dickinson? Accommodating increases in enrollment? Addressing identified achievement gaps for at-risk and minority students? Not paying our teachers? Not taking advantage of available education grants nor intelligently recruiting the best teachers? Not staffing new schools? Doing away with initiatives like AOL and AET to help our best students achieve as much as their talents allow? Do away with art and music? Don’t optimize staffing to better align with needs? Don’t recover any of the ground lost due to The Great Recession or earlier reticence to deal appropriately with our explosive growth? Not bolstering the most effective (read: efficient) resources that our FDK and ELL kids have to lift themselves out of poverty and disadvantage?

    There are studies that claim to prove that FDK doesn’t have academic benefits after 3rd grade, but that’s not the entire story. According to Chmn. Randall, who has experience and knowledge that you don’t, research also shows that the greatest jumps in SOCIAL development occur at three points in school: K-1, 7-8, and and 10-11. Do you honestly believe that social retardation have any effect other than making EDUCATION more difficult – or in terms you might appreciate, less efficient?

    Don’t confuse our elementary school teachers’ expertise and ability to overcome deficits in these areas BY THIRD GRADE as “proof” that Kindergarten is a complete waste of resources. If they didn’t need to contend with those issues, imagine how much further along they could bring ALL of the students in their classrooms.

    As Chmn. Hornberger summarized the FY17 budget that the LCSB adopted: “Totals $1,068,442 (8.8% increase over FY 2016) and includes funds associated with maintaining current levels of service, staffing and costs associated with increased enrollment, maintaining competitive compensation for employees, and strategic enhancements and offsetting reallocations. The cost per pupil (CPP) increases under the proposed budget by 5% to $13,338 that is only 4.4% above where it was in 2009 without adjusting for inflation… The School Board Adopted FY 2017 Budget amounts to $1,068,227,308 or $217,849 less than originally proposed by the Superintendent. The School Board’s adopted budget will be formally proposed to the Board of Supervisors on February 22, 2016.”

    Go pound sand, Dickinson.

  • 2016-02-13 at 3:52 pm

    “members of the School Board are endorsed candidates by the Loudoun County Republican Committee. ”

    It isn’t an easy decision. The Democrats have looney toons for candidates and sometimes it is a defensive measure to endorse someone because the other person is just terrible.

  • 2016-02-13 at 4:07 pm

    @rdj. Do you realize if you take the inverse of what you claim, that you are saying that kids that stay home with their parent(s) are social retarded?

    If you think LCPS has a retention problem, then you are delusional. Their attrition rates are low for a reason. They are paid well and work in pleasant environments.

    You want the DD Plan. Here it is:
    1. No FDK except for ESL students.
    2. Stop spending money on non-academic stuff. Don’t waste tens of millions of dollars on athletic junk. It isn’t core to schooling. Drop it.
    3. Don’t buy 20 acre parcels of land, use 1% of it to put a building on it and leave the other 99% open.
    4. When employees get an 18%/year retirement contribution for a full time salary for which many of them only work 9 months a year, they shouldn’t expect really high wages and they shouldn’t get them either.
    5. Lay off at least 10% of the staff.

  • 2016-02-13 at 11:04 pm

    Rdj, aka the “rare bird”, obviously have very little financial experience. He touts a long list of small items, onsies and twosies, that are insignificant when you must close a $30M+ hole. He’s clearly never been responsible for financial resources. Let see how many of his justifications even make sense:

    1. “Accommodating increases in enrollment”: Are you seriously stating that 1 additional student per class will make a difference when many of the classes have blended learning to increase their productivity? And see the printout of avg math class sizes in high school. Most of them were actually under 20 students/class. We can keep science labs 65+ vs LCPS teachers -> 52 (btw, is your housemate/LEA ringleader about ready to retire?)

  • 2016-02-15 at 11:26 am

    Reposting because the greater than/less than signs cut the middle out.

    Brian Davison
    [Keep this message at the top of your inbox]
    To: Brian Davison
    Rdj, aka the “rare bird”, obviously have very little financial experience. He touts a long list of small items, onsies and twosies, that are insignificant when you must close a $30M+ hole. He’s clearly never been responsible for financial resources. Let see how many of his justifications even make sense:

    1. “Accommodating increases in enrollment”: Are you seriously stating that 1 additional student per class will make a difference when many of the classes have blended learning to increase their productivity? And see the printout of avg math class sizes in high school. Most of them were actually under 20 students/class. We can keep science labs less than 30/class and still save $10M’s by increasing class sizes by a single student.

    2. “Addressing” achievement gaps for “minority kids”? Are you seriously suggesting LCPS is going to spend more money based on race? Adjust class sizes based on ethnicity? I didn’t see that in the budget. Are you just making up nonsense again?

    3. “Not paying our teachers”? Say what? Our first year teachers make more than ANY of the surrounding districts. Our step 30 teachers make more than more expensive Fairfax! Our mid-to-senior teachers almost never leave but Supt Williams says we must give them outsized raises to “keep them from leaving”? Has Supt Williams or you ever had to run a business or project? Since when do you just throw money you don’t have at people who are not going to leave? Teachers can still get step increases and 0.8% COLA (inflation was less than 0.3%) without breaking the bank on LEA “retire at 52 yrs old” teacher demands.

    4. “Not staffing new schools” or “doing away with AOS”? What in the world are you talking amount. Those are pennies. Those “justifications” are propaganda used to gin up support. There is zero (ZERO) chance we won’t staff new schools or roll out AOS/AOT. It’s insignificant in these budget discussions.

    5. Not “bolstering” resources for FDK and ELL kids? Our disadvantaged kids already attend FDK. Many parents have said they don’t want their kids to attend FDK. And several studies show that math proficiency is hindered by FDK while no long-term benefits accrue. Randall never cites any real research so we can have a debate, she just “knows”. Forgive me for not believing the “ethics pledge hypocrite” who wants to censor her constituents. If we need socialization, we can send them to Tae Kwon Do camps for 1/3 the cost (last time I checked, daycare providers don’t retire at 52 yrs old with yearly pensions of $50K+).

    6. Let’s be clear hear, rare bird. You suggest that we MUST have FDK, right. And that if we don’t, our kids will be forever harmed, no? And then later you are going to tout some policy from Finland (with those high scores) as justification for additional spending. But many of those European countries don’t even start kindergarten until kids are 6. I’m sure you won’t let hypocrisy stand in the way of a nonsense argument though.

    Chairman Hornberger’s spin (oh, doesn’t he have a “personal interest in the transaction” that he is not disclosing btw. Not his only legal violation as his biased censorship will land him in court too) is ridiculous. LCSB members admitted the contingency staffing cut wasn’t a “real cut” because those 10 20 positions were not expected to be used (or even double counted). So LCSB actually RAISED the budget by $1.6M above the $80M+ increase that Supt Williams proposed! Everybody knew the BOS directed only a $50M increase and LCSB completely blew them off. Why don’t we have LCSB come up with their own budget rather than be biased by the LEA cheerleader – Supt Williams. There are only 4 comparisons the citizens need to know:

    – 8.8% budget increase YOY vs 3.8% enrollment growth

    – 23% per pupil increase since just FY2011 vs 8.7% inflation (over last 5 years)

    – 5% per pupil increase YOY vs 0.7% inflation YOY (btw, Leigh Burden explained that the “biggest cause” of the 5% per pupil increase was due to …. enrollment growth! say what!!!!)

    – age that workers are eligible for retirement: private sector = 65+ vs LCPS teachers = 52 (btw, is your housemate/LEA ringleader about ready to retire?)

  • 2016-02-15 at 11:48 am

    Phyllis Randall sends out a hyper-biased “poll.” Obviously, her mind is closed. She wants to expand government and hike taxes. Those Democrats waste no time in gouging people. Here is her “poll”:

    What tax rate do you support (per $100 in assessed value)?

    A) $1.135 underfunds County budget by $5.5 M and LCPS budget by $31.4 M
    B) $1.140 funds County budget, underfunds LCPS budget by $31.4 M
    C) $1.150 funds County budget, underfunds LCPS budget by $20.7 M
    D) $1.170 fully funds County and LCPS budget
    E) Other

    I thought she was approaching the Chairmanship with an open mind? Obviously not.

  • 2016-02-16 at 3:28 pm

    Oh, really David! Gouging people? Like, when you supported a lousy education bill sponsored by Delegate LaRock, bouncing around Richmond this year, in which a person who pays, say, $3,000 in taxes in a single year to the County, would be paid by the State the sum of $9,000 a year. Looks like you are a great fan of “gouging.”

  • 2016-02-16 at 4:36 pm

    Oh, Lawgh. You are breaching online etiquette by carrying a topic from another string over to this one. But I’ll make a point here too.

    First, LaRock’s bill totals about $3,500 per child not this $9000 you keep using (I asked you to spell out your logic but you have declined).

    If the student is in a government school and costs the taxpayers $15,000 per year and then leaves and goes to private/home school, then the taxpayers save big $$$. $15,000-$3,500=$11,500. That is big time annual savings not gouging.

    Please move back to my letter for further discussion and stay on topic. That is difficult for liberals, but not impossible. Try harder. You can do it.

  • Pingback: Randall: Holding Tax Rates Level “Irresponsible” – Loudoun Now

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