1/28/15

Share your thoughts on the proposed budget



The School Board decided they didn't need the optional work session scheduled to discuss the budget on Wednesday. Instead, they will entertain motions and plan for adoption on Thursday as scheduled.

While this was the last night to speak to the School Board at a meeting regarding their budget, you can still call or email your School Board members and cc: the entire board at lcsb@lcps.org with your thoughts.

At the end of tonight's work session, Chairman Hornberger asked the Board members to state, if they were comfortable, the areas they may be looking to modify from the Superintendent's proposed budget. Here are their responses, summarized by the areas mentioned and the number of School Board members mentioning them:
  • Modifying the full-day kindergarten proposal (seems all are suggesting reducing the number of students receiving full-day kindergarten from the original proposal except perhaps Ms. Bergel) (7)
  • Retain some or all of the middle school library assistants that were proposed to be eliminated (5)
  • Restoring traditional summer school at a cost of approximately $550,000 (5)
  • Adding a post-secondary transition specialist for Special Education students (5)
  • Modifying the health insurance plan in order to reduce the increase in premiums to closer to 10% than 15% and stabilize the self-insurance fund (4)
  • Reallocate some of the teachers set aside for contingency staffing to other needs (3)
  • Reducing high school class sizes (3)
  • Adding a playground at Meadowland Elementary school (2)
  • Reducing the computer replacement costs (2)
  • Keeping the current number of middle school deans instead of restoring some (1)
  • Reallocating or eliminating funding for summer enrichment programs such as Summer in the Arts (1)
  • Looking at charter school dollar values (1)
  • Modifying the secondary staffing plan (1)


Here's the same information, but instead listed by School Board member:

Eric Hornberger, Ashburn (Eric.Hornberger@lcps.org)
  • Modifying the Full-Day Kindergarten proposal to consolidate some of the schools with space but less at-risk students into less schools. This would reduce 7 teachers and teacher assistants to save approximately $965,762.
  • Modifying the health insurance plan in order to reduce the increase in premiums to closer to 10% than 15% and stabilize the self-insurance fund
  • Reducing high school class sizes, possibly reallocating some of the proposed contingency teachers
  • Adding a post-secondary transition specialist for Special Education students
  • Retaining some or all of the middle school library assistants proposed for reallocation
  • Restoring traditional summer school at a cost of approximately $550,000
  • Adding a playground at Meadowland Elementary school

Thomas Reed, At-Large (Thomas.Reed@lcps.org)
  • Restoring secondary summer school

Kevin Kuesters, Broad Run (Kevin.Kuesters@lcps.org)
    None

Brenda Sheridan, Sterling (Brenda.Sheridan@lcps.org)
  • Restoring summer school
  • Modifying the full-day kindergarten expansion
  • Retaining the middle school library assistants
  • Adding a transition specialist

Jill Turgeon, Blue Ridge (Jill.Turgeon@lcps.org)
  • Restoring summer school with possibly reallocating summer enrichment programs such as Summer in the Arts if needed.
  • Modifying the full-day kindergarten expansion to solely focus on at-risk students
  • Retaining the middle school library assistants
  • Adding a transition specialist

Jeff Morse, Dulles (Jeff.Morse@lcps.org)
  • Adding a transition specialist
  • Reducing the computer replacement costs
  • Looking at charter school dollar values
  • Modifying the secondary staffing plan
  • Modifying the full-day kindergarten expansion to consolidate more classes
  • Retaining the middle school library assistants
  • Modifying the health insurance plan in order to reduce the increase in premiums and stabilize the self-insurance fund
  • Adding a playground at Meadowland Elementary school
  • Restoring summer school
  • Reducing high school class sizes
  • Reducing the contingency staffing proposed

Debbie Rose, Algonkian (Debbie.Rose@lcps.org)
  • Modifying the full-day kindergarten expansion to solely focus on at-risk students
  • Reducing the computer replacement costs, especially the additional laptops
  • Modifying the health insurance plan to reduce the increase in premiums and stabilize the self-insurance fund
  • Specifically stated she would not support class size reductions at the middle school or high school level without research supporting it
  • Reducing the contingency staffing proposed

Jennifer Bergel, Catoctin (Jennifer.Bergel@lcps.org)
  • Adding a transition specialist
  • Decrease secondary class sizes
  • Modifying the full-day kindergarten expansion to specific schools with space instead of solely at-risk students
  • Retaining the middle school library assistants

Bill Fox, Leesburg (Bill.Fox@lcps.org)
  • Retaining the middle school library assistants
  • Keeping the current number of middle school deans instead of restoring some
  • Modifying the health insurance plan to reduce the increase in premiums and stabilize the self-insurance fund but also possibly including higher deductibles for the POS plan
  • Modifying the full-day kindergarten expansion

Once the School Board adopts its budget request, the Board of Supervisors will then decide on the funding they will provide the School Board based on its request. The County Administrator is scheduled to present his proposed budget on February 4.

1/20/15

Great turnout at the first School Board public hearing

There was a great turnout at the School Board's first public hearing tonight. Forty-four people spoke and many more were in attendance. Very few speakers supported the Superintendent's proposed budget as-is. They wanted more.

Around half of the speakers asked the School Board to NOT eliminate middle school library assistants. In the 1/15 budget questions & answers, LCPS staff admitted in its answer to question #21 that it would need a loophole to get around the state required standards of quality (SOQ) for staffing that mandates at least one full-time library assistant when a middle school or high school has over 750 students. Many speakers solely asked to keep the library assistants, but several speakers also made the point that LCPS needs to still restore the middle school deans. The Superintendent's presentation on the budget offered up the middle school library assistants to offset the increased expense of restoring some of the middle school deans. 

Many speakers asked to restore items cut from last year's budget during reconciliation:
  • some asked to restore the technology resource teachers (TRTs) lost
  • some asked to restore all the middle school deans lost
  • some asked to restore traditional summer school
  • one asked to restore high school activity buses
Improvements were also on the minds of many of the speakers. Some supported new initiatives in the Superintendent's proposed budget: 
Some supported new initiatives that are not in the Superintendent's proposed budget: 
  • provide a cost-of-living increase for all employees in addition to the step increase
  • reduce class sizes (especially at the middle and high school levels) 
  • increase the number of counselors to decrease their student load
  • reduce or eliminate fees for parking and athletics
One teacher asked for new textbooks for her AP history classes. Her current ones are woefully out of date. After hearing that, one speaker, a former student of LCPS, said, "A lot's changed since I graduated in 2005. Apparently the history textbooks haven't." He was disappointed that we're moving backwards, and settling for getting closer to where we were five years ago. How about you? 

The second School Board public hearing on the proposed budget is Thursday, January 22 at 6:30pm at the School Administration building at 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. Call (571) 252-1020 to sign up in advance to speak or sign up at the door before the hearing begins.

1/16/15

FY16 Budget Proposed

We didn't know for sure what to expect from the new Superintendent, Dr. Eric Williams, when he presented his first proposed budget. But since he's been talking about the budget with the School Board and the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Supervisors in various work sessions, meetings, and other communications since last summer, we had some idea.

Back in August, Assistant Superintendent Leigh Burden presented a preliminary fiscal outlook that said LCPS would need $53.1 million to pay for increases in salaries and benefits costs, accommodate new enrollment, and open the planned new schools. Any improvements or restorations of past cuts would be extra.

At the end of October, Ms. Burden updated the fiscal outlook to $67.1 million to cover those items, factoring in new projections for enrollment and an extra 0.5% increase in salaries to match expected county employees' raises. Again, this did not include any money for restoring cuts or making improvements.

Last week, Dr. Williams presented his budget and it asked for a $68.9 million increase over last year's budget. Hmm. At first glance, not much in there for restorations or enhancements. Still, in addition to the previously spelled out increases for compensation, growth, and new schools, it does ask for other high priority items:
  • $4.4 million for expansion of full-day kindergarten to 38% of kindergarteners, up from 11%
  • $3.6 million to accommodate for enrollment variations in order to maintain class sizes
  • $2.9 million for new technology to be used in schools
  • $1 million to replace the GPS system used by transportation services
  • $0.9 million to restore some of the lost middle school deans by reworking the staffing allotment
  • $0.7 million to expand Virtual Loudoun online year-round available courses
  • $0.3 million to staff a year-round ELL (English language learners) intake center
  • $0.1 million to restore the health clinic specialist at Hillsboro Elementary
Obviously, that adds up to more than the $1.8 million over what was projected in October. The total number of full-time employee positions only increases by 3.5% over a projected enrollment increase of 3.4%, again surprising with the new staff allocated in the above items. Dr. Williams' budget does this by also proposing savings including:
  • eliminating 14 middle school library assistants ($0.7 million)
  • eliminating 20 ELL kindergarten teacher assistants ($0.9 million)
  • eliminating vacant positions from transportation: 31 bus drivers and 4 bus attendants
  • eliminating 11.5 other positions from various areas
  • reducing spending on leased technology ($2.4 million)
All employees whose positions are proposed to be eliminated should be able to be reallocated to other positions needed for growth and enhancements.

In the work sessions with the School Board, these other possible enhancements had been discussed, but didn't make it into the Superintendent's budget proposal:
  • provide a 1% across-the-board cost-of-living adjustment to employees ($7 million)
  • reduce elementary school average class sizes by 1 student ($5.3 million)
  • reduce middle school average class sizes by 1 student ($3.2 million)
  • reduce high school average class sizes by 1 student ($3.7 million)
Other restorations weren't specifically discussed before, but some have come up during the work sessions since the budget was proposed, and some may be in your thoughts:
  • restore summer school ($820,000)
  • restore the rest of the lost middle school deans ($1.2 million)
  • replace aging buses ($7 million)
  • restart an elementary school foreign language program
  • restore lost technology and library assistants
The School Board will be holding public hearings to listen to your thoughts on Tuesday and Thursday. To sign up to speak at the Jan 20 or 22 hearings, call (571) 252-1020 in advance or sign up at the door before the hearing begins. The hearings are held at 6:30pm at the School Administration building at 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. You can also email the School Board at lcsb@lcps.org. The School Board plans to adopt its budget request on January 29.

In other news, the Board of Supervisors stuck with their fiscal guidance to the County Administrator in preparing his budget. He will look at both the current tax rate ($1.155) and the estimated equalized tax rate ($1.13) and prepare options for each. The current projected gap between the amount the Superintendent requested and the fiscal guidance would be between $11.2 and $28.4 million. A one penny increase on the tax rate is approximately equivalent to $7 million. New property assessment valuations should be available soon.