Supervisors Begin Review of $1.5B School Budget

Members of the Board of supervisors got their first look at the $1.5 billion school division budget for Fiscal Year 2022 on Monday night and raised some of the same questions the School Board’s critics have been asking over the past year.

The School Board adopted its budget Feb. 2. It envisions a return to normal operations next fall, along with a post-COVID enrollment bounce back and expanded distance learning opportunities.

During the initial round of questioning with Interim Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler and School Board members, supervisors asked for more details on how the current year’s $1.395 billion was spent and for details on savings generated because campuses were largely shut down during most of the year; how much federal aid was received, how was it used and how much is left to spend; for more information on how virtual learning options could continue for students who thrive in that environment; and whether the adopted package of staff raises and other compensation increases is out of step with the economic conditions. 

While budget talks will continue over the next month, Supervisor Mike Turner (D-Ashburn) announced he plans to propose the Board of Supervisors withhold 10% of the school allocation until administrators can commit to providing a full return to class next fall. 

School Board members warned against that strategy. They said all the planning so far is based on a return to normal in-person learning, but they can’t predict what the public health situation will when classes gear up in August. Currently, state and federal guidance to maintain physical distancing in classrooms serves as the greatest hurdle to bringing schools back to full capacity. That recommendation hasn’t changed as public health leaders in recent weeks stepped up the push for schools across the county to return to some level of in-person learning.

School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) and Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) warned that the threat of holding back money would create too much uncertainty, undermine recruiting and retention efforts and could result in layoffs. Jeff Morse (Dulles), the board’s most vocal proponent of returning students to classrooms, said such an approach could undermine efforts to resume full-time classes. The funding, he said, would be needed to provide student extra support with special summer offerings and to hire the educators needed for the fall. 

While school leaders are moving forward with plans to return full time, Morse noted that guidance from public health leaders has changed frequently over the past year. “We don’t know what it is going to look like in September,” he said. 

Another early friction point in the budget talks is the School Board’s adopted enrollment projections—numbers that drive the staffing requirements that make up the largest part of the budget.

School Board members had similar questions after then-superintendent Eric Williams initially proposed a budget based on having 6,115 more students than were enrolled last September. This year, schools opened with 2,671 fewer students than the previous year, leaving the division with more than 4,000 fewer students than expected in the budget. Williams projected those students would return and enrollment would grow beyond last year’s projections by another 1,864, to a total enrollment of 85,755. 

Although administrators have expressed confidence in those figures, the School Board last week voted to roll back enrollment projections by 2%. Planning for an enrollment of 85,867 students saved $6.4 million and reduced the number of new hires needed by 65.8 full-time equivalent positions.

Some supervisors questioned whether that projection remains too high

Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) said a survey of his constituents this week showed a high level of dissatisfaction with the current school year and strong support for withholding funding until the enrollment level is known. 

County Administrator Tim Hemstreet will introduce his proposed county budget, which includes the school system’s allocation, on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

State Candidates Flock to Loudoun

Loudoun’s School Board wound up in national headlines after video of parent Brandon Michon screaming at them during a meeting was picked up online and on television—bringing statewide Republican candidates rushing into Loudoun to campaign outside local government meetings.Michon has become a celebrity among Republicans and was among the featured attendees during a small rally outside the county government center during the Monday meeting. The “#FigureItOut Rally,” named for one of the statements Michon shouted at the School Board, attracted a few dozen people including TV crews and statewide Republican primary candidates including gubernatorial candidates Pete Snyder, Kirk Cox, and Sergio de la Peña; Attorney General candidate Jason Miyares; and campaigners for other candidates. In Snyder’s case, it is the second time he has campaigned outside a Loudoun School Board meeting.

9 thoughts on “Supervisors Begin Review of $1.5B School Budget

  • 2021-02-09 at 1:14 pm

    This budget is ridiculous. A few facts: (note that LCPS originally projected 87,619 which is 1722 students more than the highly inflated FY21 enrollment projection of 85897. I bet Beth Barts her house that actual enrollment would come in under 85K and she talked trash up to the enrollment report but was too scared to bet. Now we know why. She was just lying her *#&$* off).

    1. Fairfax is requesting a 2-year total budget DECREASE of $7M. That’s right, the Fairfax school budget for FY22 is $7M less than its FY20 budget. Meanwhile, LCPS is asking for an astronomical $210M budget increase over that period. LCPS wants to keep their egregious $88M increase for FY21 and then double-down with a whopping $124M increase on top for FY22. It’s a 16.5% jump in funding for the rosy projection of 2% enrollment growth over that same period. This is highway robbery.

    2. Just a few years back in FY14, Fairfax spent $1800 more per pupil than LCPS. That makes sense. It costs more to live in Fairfax. Fairfax has 2x as many FRL students, 1/3 more ESL students and more SpEd students as a % of their enrollment. They cost more to educate. They also have a more senior workforce which in the world of keep-breathing-get-raises teachers means they pay more. But now, the profligate LCPS will have a HIGHER per pupil cost at $17,000/student than even Fairfax at $16,500. How in the world does that happen? Well, when you keep giving 7-12% raises annually to SB members’ family (aka teachers), despite not giving substitutes a $ more per day at the rate of $112/day or withholding raises from bus drivers despite a 10% shortage, you get out-of-control but inefficient budgets. This largess doesn’t help students. It if OF the teachers, BY the teachers (spouses), and FOR the teachers.

    3. And we see both the SB and the BOS members lie their tails off. LCPS teachers earn MORE in salary than Fairfax teachers even though Fairfax is a tougher job (more SpEd, FRL and ESL students) and is a higher cost of living area. LCPS employees also receive a much richer health plan to the tune of $5000/year more than Fairfax. Put that together and an LCPS teacher will earn $150K – $600K MORE in their 45-year career than a Fairfax teacher! So why is LCPS giving 7% raises this year when Fairfax is withholding (no step increase or scale increase) teacher raises during the recession?!! Because we have selfish, ignorant, lying SB and BOS members who couldn’t care less about kids.

    4. If the BOS allowed LCPS to keep their full FY21 increase of $88M (6% more $$) for the total 2% enrollment increase from FY20 -> FY22, the BOS could return $124M to the taxpayers. At $9M per cent on the tax rate, that is a 14 cent tax rate cut and worth $700 tax cut to the average Loudoun family. When the Hypocrats’ leaders in DC are showering money on the public like it’s free, you would think Randall and her band of misfits would want to also allow families in LoCo to keep $700 more of their earnings vice paying it in taxes to help LoCo’s economy. Note that you don’t hear a word of this come out of the mouth of the Loudoun RINOs on the board. Let’s hope Caleb can ignore Matt “Spend it Like Pelosi” Letourneau and propose a serious tax cut. He hasn’t been corrupted by the foolish “if we spend just as much as Dems we can keep our seat and sell out our principles” motto of the LCRC.

    We need every decent person in LoCo who cares about families who have lost jobs, lost businesses, or suffered increased medical spending to say enough is enough and demand the BOS return OUR money to the people.

    • 2021-02-09 at 7:32 pm

      SGP, you have studied and investigated LCPS more than anyone I can think of, so I thought I would ask you: Why does LCPS feel like it is their job to provide 4 meals a day, 7 days a week to Loudoun County families? I see my neighbors collecting the food and they don’t even have kids in the system! When I ask why they are taking the food, they simply say “because it’s free”- well, it’s not free, we’re all paying for it and am just having trouble understanding why it became the school system’s responsibility to feed families. I understand why they provide lunch (and even breakfast for some) while kids are in school, but this I do not understand. Aren’t there other programs that should be taking on this task?

      • 2021-02-10 at 5:12 pm

        Well, the USDA administers these food stamp-type programs. They pay for the food at least. And the USDA doesn’t have a distributor in every county, much less every neighborhood so it is a marriage of convenience. Sort of like the DMV being used to assess outstanding tickets and sign folks up (including aliens) to vote.

        But your point is well taken on the freeloading. I understand the premise was to avoid requiring ID for poor families to get the meals so they are not stigmatized. But you are correct in that so many affluent families for whom the service was never intended have no shame whatsoever and take whatever they can get their hands on. It reminds me of teachers being included in vaccine Phase 1B groups and despite the governor pleading with folks to delay getting the vaccine until the most vulnerable in their group could receive it, the selfish LCPS teachers rushed to the front of the line and are now causing multi-week delays for the truly vulnerable elderly residents.

        Schools should force everyone to watch The Cinderella Man who repaid his welfare as soon as he could because he wanted to be responsible. Today we have these leeches begging for huge “stimulus” checks when many of them never lost a job. Why should a retired elderly couple get $2800 so their grandkids can pay that back? Some of these checks will run upwards of $15,000 if they approve $3600/child and $1400/adult. That’s insane. But I guess it’s a little less insane than giving LCPS $210M over 2 years so they can give overpaid teachers $8000 raises.

  • 2021-02-09 at 2:35 pm

    When a businessman knows more about the health concerns of our state rather then the doctor who was elected you can bet it is Pete Snyder. Northam is till under his desk mandating our children be deprived of educations we taxpayers paid for. The children were used as pawns by the current administration statewide from the governor down to the shameful school boards. Time to reopen Virginia!

    • 2021-02-10 at 10:07 am

      Your child isn’t being “denied” an education. Stop being so histrionic.

      A lot of kids are actually thriving in distance learning. My kids are and are learning fine.

      There is plenty of instruction and education. All this yelling and footstomping by an indignant minority of people who are perpetually angry about everything is duly noted.

      • 2021-02-10 at 11:12 am

        Your thoughts have been duly noted.

        The reported data proves you are incorrect.

  • 2021-02-09 at 4:10 pm

    Dear BOS,
    Here is a chance to regain some voter confidence that you are actually trying to do your elected jobs. State Statute 22.1-79 REQUIRES the school board to operate under the concept of UTMOST EFFICIENCY. If they didn’t do that last fiscal year they were malfeasant. If the school board refused to use the Sept 30th enrollment to justify the budget request last year they tricked the system to give them more money under false pretense. Did they do that? Did they operate efficiently (give money back to taxpayers for diesel not used, assistant teachers not used, maintenance, heating, cooling, food and security not needed for closed schools)? Do you know the phrase about being fooled once, twice three times? You are literally fools if you don’t show the public you care about taxpayer dollars being wasted! (in my opinion) 🙂

  • 2021-02-09 at 8:59 pm

    Thank youV- SGP.

    This information needs to be repeated.

    Our kids will have lost more than an entire school year of education. It would be hard to put a price on that sad fact.

    The BOS NEED to do the right thing with this education budget, but I fear they will not. In the end Loudoun taxpayers will fund this failing bonanza and our kids will be sacrificed at the same time.

    The entire school board needs to RESIGN NOW.

  • 2021-02-13 at 6:50 pm

    I hope there will be money for teachers with mental health issues due to the prolonged closure of schools and fear of returning. PTSD is real and it is no fun. There are so many indicators that educators (and parents, probably kids too) are suffering from PTSD. That needs to be formalized also in the budget.

    Mental health regarding trauma of prolonged school closures. School anxiety is VERY real and many left LCPS to enter private school or be homeschooled. Will they come back? Will teachers get vaccinated and come back or refuse to be vaccinated and only teach DL with a proctor in person? I don’t know where the perseverance of teachers are — many are so excited to return that it is joyful again. And others are avoiding it. What HR practices will be started to see how school avoidance has effected the quality of education this school year and last? Students shouldn’t be scared to go to school. They should be excited to go to school. Don’t they at least deserve that out of this proposed budget?

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