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.

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