In the letter, Chairman York first implies that the School Board was expected to follow the Board of Supervisors fiscal guidance to the County Administrator. Then, he asks the School Board to let the BoS know what changes they would make to the budget (that they just adopted) to cut $39.3 million from it in order to be in compliance with said fiscal guidance. Perhaps it's obvious, but the School Board didn't seem to appreciate the timing, tone, or contents of this letter. They worked on the budget for weeks with public hearings and work sessions and are now preparing to present it to the Board of Supervisors in six days on Tuesday, February 18 at 7pm at the School Administration building in Ashburn. They will explain their justification for this budget and why it should be fully funded. They have no intention of reconciling the budget in advance of the Board of Supervisors finalizing their revenue allotment in April.
Some of the School Board discussion:
Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) directed her comments to Loudoun County citizens. "Everything is at risk," she said. "Music, sports, arts." If you want the budget fully funded, she said you need to "Speak up. Speak loudly. Be clear," and suggested you email email@example.com.
Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) seemed offended that the letter didn't discuss any of the goals they were trying to achieve with this budget - salary enhancements, reduced class sizes, technology improvements.
Bill Fox (Leesburg) said "Quite frankly, this just isn't how things are done." He continued, "Our budget reflects the community priorities we've been hearing...I could easily say we'll do an across-the-board administrative hiring freeze and cut our raise in half and lose the drop in elementary school [class sizes] and get rid of freshman sports and we could probably get there pretty easily, but is that what anybody wants? The constituents that I have are the exact same constituents that they have. If they're hearing this overwhelming 'keep the tax rate down, 'keep the tax rate down', I've gotten like 3 emails from these folks, so I'm wondering where they all are. I hate taxes! But if this is what my constituents want, to keep the tax rate low, I haven't heard from any of them."
Jeff Morse (Dulles) would like to respond with: class size, teacher pay, technology. If the Board of Supervisors cuts $39.3 million from their budget request, "You're going to impact these three things which adversely affects every student in Loudoun County, every teacher in Loudoun County, every family in Loudoun County, the property values in Loudoun County. You're killing the golden goose."
Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said that people criticized this School Board for its first two years' budgets that made large cuts to the Superintendent's proposed budget and now praise them for this year's budget with little cuts. She asks them to consider that in each case they did their jobs. Their budget states what needs to be fulfilled. The BoS doesn't have line item veto.
Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) said that he is happy with the current process where the Board of Supervisors sets the amount to spend and the School Board decides how to spend it. He said, "The letter from Chairman York does not give the School Board credit for what we've done over the last two years." He also noted that Fairfax County is currently looking at making changes to balance their budget this year that Loudoun already made in prior years. But, he points out that the BoS has to weigh transportation versus education and we'll see what happens.
Tom Reed (At-Large) pointed out that the joint committee had asked for more input to the Board of Supervisors before they set their fiscal guidance in September and didn't receive it. He said he knew of no easy cuts.
Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) suggested that the Board of Supervisors is attempting to overstep the School Board's constitutional authority by making this request. He said, "It is unprecedented." He will craft a response from the School Board denying their request when he has time, but he's working on the budget presentation as a higher priority for now.
Gather your friends and neighbors and let's show some support for fully funding the School Board budget at their presentation to the Board of Supervisors on February 18!