Speakers Rally to Support School Funding

Forty-five people stepped up to the podium to be heard by the Board of Supervisors on Thursday, and not one of them asked to keep the real estate tax rate down.

The vast majority of speakers had come to ask the board, for one reason or another, to fully fund the school and county budgets. Some had rallied behind what has come to be called turf equity, or putting artificial turf athletic fields at the four Loudoun high schools that do not have them. Others defended what they called the School Board’s “needs-based budget.” But the unifying theme was clear.

“We are begging you to raise the tax rate to $1.17,” said Patti Nelson, chair of the Loudoun chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

Claire Scholz asks the Board of Supervisors to fund the School Board's budget request. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Claire Scholz asks the Board of Supervisors to fund the School Board’s budget request. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

County Administrator Tim Hemstreet has projected that maintaining the county’s level of service and fully funding the school board’s budget request will require an increase in the county’s real estate tax rate. Currently, that rate is $1.135 per $100 of assessed value; Hemstreet said fully funding the school budget will require a rate of $1.17.

Most of the speakers came as part of organized groups. SEIU members came in their signature matching purple. Students, parents, and school employees came with signs asking for turf equity.

“It’s an investment,” said Marlene Barney. “It’s not a tax increase.”

Loudoun Education Association President Joey Matthews asks county supervisors for a fully funded school budget.. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Loudoun Education Association President Joey Matthews asks county supervisors for a fully funded school budget.. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“An equalized tax rate is very good if you’re not growing,” said Joey Matthews, president of the Loudoun Education Association. “Equal does not mean larger, equal does not mean smaller, equal means it stays the same. Our school system is not staying the same.”

“I moved to Loudoun County specifically for the schools, to raise my family, because I had an 18-month-old,” Ryan Myers said. “I didn’t move and rent. I moved and bought a home. I just want you guys not to mess with my investment.”

“I’m willing to pay $1.17 per $100, which equals to one McDonald’s Big Mac per month,” Pam Lewis said.

Although schools dominated the discussion, other county services also spoke up.

“If you had a severe mental illness, that kept you from functioning normally, would you like to be told that there’s a waiting list of several months because the Board of Supervisors did not want to raise the tax rate?” asked Beth Newberry, a retired Loudoun Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services psychiatric nurse, SEIU member, and grandmother of LCPS students. “If you’re a parent, do you want to hear that the county cannot afford to meet the needs of the children in the schools?”

The Loudoun County Democratic Committee and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) have also put their weight behind the school budget. A robocall paid for by the LCDC and featuring Umstattd went out in advance of the meeting urging residents to come to the meeting and ask the board to fully fund the school budget.

Supervisors will meet with the School Board tonight for a second round of discussions on the budget. A tax rate and budget adoption vote is scheduled for April 5.

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13 thoughts on “Speakers Rally to Support School Funding

  • 2016-03-18 at 4:45 pm

    This is unbelievable.

    First: people focus on the tax rate while the biggest variable is the property value. If your property value stays the same, sure, increasing the tax rate will have a negligible impact. If your property value goes up however, even the same tax rate will result in a significant increase of your property tax.

    That these people solely focus on the property tax value says much about their lack of understanding of property taxation.

    Second: really? Education is about astro turf? How low we have fallen when we have to listen to the demands of the soccer moms and dads.
    When I was a kid I had no astroturf, no playground, a single teacher per classroom with 30 (yes, thirty) students. And you know what? I received a great education. Because I had great teachers. Because they were paid well.
    Now? We don’t pay our teachers decently, because we’re too busy adding costs to the school system. Astroturf. Assistants. 20 students per classroom. And when you don’t pay teachers a decent salary, you don’t get the best folks to teach our kids.

    Focus on what’s important. Forget about the astroturf and all the nice to haves. Pay our teachers well and our kids will receive a great education. And you don’t need a 1 billion dollars budget to do that.

    • 2016-03-18 at 4:46 pm

      Obviously I meant “That these people solely focus on the property tax RATE says much about their lack of understanding of property taxation.”

  • 2016-03-18 at 7:28 pm

    Ok, so let me get this straight.

    1. A bunch of union members (SEIU, LEA, etc.) come to the public body responsible for setting their salary and “demand” taxes be raised on everyone else to give them a bigger paycheck? And these are the same teachers who can retire at 52 yrs old with a $50K/yr pension? Wow, that’s a surprise.

    2. Over the last 5 years, Loudoun’s population growth has averaged about 3.5%. Over the last 5 years, LCPS’ enrollment growth has averaged about 3.5%. So why exactly would you need to raise the rate when taxpayer growth match student growth? We may now know why Joey Matthews stopped being a teacher and became a union hack. He can’t perform basic math calculations to save his life. I want to thank Joey for not exposing any students to his ineffective instruction.

    3. On Monday night, there were over 70 speakers just to speak on school boundaries. Less than 60% of that number spoke on Thursday night about the budget. Some spoke on counting Tamil language proficiency as credit for a bilingual diploma. Some spoke on getting astroturf. Even with Umstattd’s embarrassing robocall, they probably had less than 30 speakers come out begging for more handouts for themselves. I don’t think any supervisor in their right mind would change.

    I signed up to speak but had a change of plans. I was simply going to remind the board of a few numbers:

    A. LCPS’ per pupil expenditures increased 23% since 2011 despite only 8% inflation growth.

    B. LCPS per pupil expenditures increase 5.0% in FY17, over and above the 3.8% enrollment growth.

    C. LCPS per pupil growth is much higher than any other local district. While Loudoun jumped 9% in the last 2 years (slide 31), many districts (Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery, Fairfax, Falls Church) are either falling or staying about the same, LCPS has jumped nearly 10%. That’s per pupil folks. Or essentially pay raises to the teachers. But enough is never enough. Many would like to retire at 48 with $75K/yr if they could.

    D. LCPS is projecting 7%+ budget increases as far as the eye can see. They just won’t share that with you. Because it means Umstattd’s tax increase will occur year after year after year after year after year after year after ……..

  • 2016-03-18 at 8:04 pm

    Why don’t these people take their kids out of public school and then pick one of the many private schools that will provide exactly what they want?

    Oh, that’s right. Because all these petty wants must be paid for by someone else. They want someone to vote away your money so they can get a private level education without having to pay for it.

    The author of the article should have mentioned that the public budget input sessions are over. That is why there is nobody countering the “@#$#@$ my neighbor with higher taxes” crowd. We already showed up when the budget sessions were held in February. What these LCPS drones did was show up after the fact so they could monopolize the conversation.

  • 2016-03-19 at 8:21 am

    Now, Now, my good friend David. I really don’t think you want to look like you are against a constitutional right to petition one’s government, do you? And, the budget process is far from over, as there is still no votes on the tax rate or budget. Let’s be both fair, and American, in continuing to stand up for our Constitution.

  • 2016-03-19 at 11:25 am

    These LCPS drones are the equivalent to rude guests that show up unannounced. Actually, they are more like rude relatives that show up and then mooch off you for an extended amount of time.

    As someone who showed up to voice my displeasure at both my assessment and tax rate going up, my head almost popped off every time I heard some student get up and whine about not having a professional level athletic field. Each kids cost $15k/year to put through LCPS and their parents kick in only $3k and they are there to whine for more, more, more, more of other people’s money. Shut up. Just shut up and sip your friggin latte while you text on your iPhone.

    • 2016-03-20 at 10:09 am

      Thank you David Dickinson, I could not have expressed it any better myself. We have only been living here for a year and I am absolutely perplexed by the high property tax rate – higher than anywhere we have lived – including two states with no income taxes. Not only is our property tax going up, but we live in a neighborhood that is being negatively impacted by redistricting by board members that do not even live in Leesburg; I expect to see a 15-20% drop in property value. If these parents believe that astro-turf is essential to their child’s education then they should get busy fund raising.

  • 2016-03-19 at 5:15 pm

    Now Lawgh, I didn’t graduate with a liberal arts AND law degree from some fancy university. I am just a simple engineering grad from a small tech school. But I’m pretty sure that infringing on citizens’ right to speak during public comments at board meetings has nothing to do with the right to petition. It’s a free speech issue. Are you interested in the case law on that one? I can share…

    Speaking of free speech, it was interesting that despite campaigning so heavily on an ethics pledge, Democrats remain silent on whether LCPS board members should have a pledge of their own. LCPS has promulgated multiple, large-scale errors (overestimating step increased by $6M to start) just in the past few months. For someone who thinks LCPS is soooo underfunded (23% per pupil increase since 2011 despite only 8% inflation), I would think an ethics pledge and allowing free speech from all citizens would be at the top of your list.

    Question. Was it you or Leo Rogers who told Chairwoman Phyliis Randall to unblock critical citizens’ comments on public forums? Wouldn’t it be great to put that Yale law degree to good use in defending your LCPS heroes in federal court very soon? One can dream, now can’t I?

  • 2016-03-20 at 8:07 am

    David, my good friend, David, really? We all should be proud when we see in action, what our forefathers created with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution; and here in Virginia, what Thomas Jefferson drafted as our Virginia Constitution. One of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of Virginia, and the United States of America, is petitioning our governments. To see you rant and rave against that fundamental constitutional right, is a bit disturbing. No one is expected to agree with everyone. But we all should hold dear, and protect, the right of petition, and free speech. So, calm down, and focus on the fact that we are seeing the best of ourselves. To say that we should deny free speech to ourselves, and to demand silence, is as unpatriotic as one can get.

  • 2016-03-20 at 6:32 pm

    Oddly enough, it doesn’t take a lawyer to do what I did. Google the “first amendment” and what to you see: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” I think even engineers can understand that. Or maybe not. What do I know.

  • 2016-03-20 at 10:59 pm

    Lawgh, believe me, everyone in Loudoun is about to get a lesson in free speech. Commonwealth Attorney already has his federal civil rights complaint pending for censoring comments. Most of the school board will have their complaints filed within the next two weeks. We all will get a civics lesson on how corrupt so many officials in this county truly are.

  • 2016-03-21 at 2:09 pm

    Lawgh, public comment periods at public meetings are not required. You are trying to claim public comment periods are required to allow citizens to petition the gov’t. That is wrong. Citizens can march. Citizens can present petitions. Nothing about the weekly comment periods is protected by the right to petition. Period. Maybe you are not a lawyer because you obviously haven’t researched the issue.

    If public comment periods are provided, then they cannot restrict speech based on the tone/point of view of that speech. They can limit the subject matter though. The neutrality of point-of-view is what is protected by free speech.

    Lesson learned. You are most welcome.

  • 2016-03-26 at 8:54 pm

    So teachers show up to petition for a raise from the people that supply it to them. That is an issue with citizens? Tell me those of you who find a problem with teachers asking for raises. How do you get a raise every year? Do you ask/ negotiate it with your boss? Same thing, no?

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