Isn't it ironic that two of the speakers from Saturday's public hearing spoke of the BoS disheartening them to near apathy at the budget process, which they both decided to ignore to come speak in support of our schools anyway. This could be the year that their hard work finally pays off.
Monday night's meeting began with a recap of the state budget's effect on the schools. The legislature had agreed to increase the state's share of teacher pay by 1.5%, which would provide LCPS with around $2.6 million more than they had accounted for. The budget gap would thus be narrowed to around $23 million.
Supervisor Ralph Buona (Ashburn) then moved the needle along by suggesting using the $7 million in surplus County funds from this year that had been set aside for replenishing the schools' self-insurance fund be reallocated to narrow the operating budget gap. The County staff informed the Board that a better idea was to use the $6.8 million fund balance set aside to offset the missing revenue at an equalized tax rate. Either way, the schools budget gap would be narrowed now to around $15.5 million.
Janet Clarke was first up then, saying she would support keeping the current tax rate of $1.155 in order to cover the last amount and fully fund the schools. Scott York followed by announcing he was in support of a $1.15 tax rate to leave an approximate $1.2 million budget gap.
Ken Reid was strongly suspected to also be in support of that, and the Loudoun Times confirmed it after the meeting. Shawn Williams proposed using the current tax rate as the initial budget guidance back in September and consistently voted for it.
That leaves one more vote to get the schools budget fully funded. One can assume given their past stances that Delgaudio and Volpe would be very unlikely to support fully funding the schools. Likewise, Geary Higgins, although a former School Board member, seems like a stretch given his comments on the record. Still, his primary opponent has withdrawn so that may change the calculus.
Thus, it most likely will come down to either Ralph Buona (Ashburn) or Matt Letourneau (Dulles) to provide the needed fifth vote in favor of full funding.
You can reach them at (703) 777-0204 or by email at:
Don't let up on any of the other supervisors either. The final vote is not expected until April 1.
The discussion to add a Dulles North elementary school and a Dulles South middle school to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) without going over the recommended debt limit was not very contentious. The BoS will be looking at several scenarios of combinations of school and county CIP projects that could be delayed or debt issuance timeline changed to fit them in.
If you spoke at a public hearing, be sure to send a follow-up email to your supervisors and cc: firstname.lastname@example.org so all parties receive it.
The Board of Supervisors will also be holding a public hearing on March 18 at 5pm at the Government Center in Leesburg on the possible rise in taxes due to the assessment increases being over 1%. State law requires they hold a public hearing whenever the tax revenue collected changes by more than 1%.