School Board Meets For Second FY17 Budget Work Session

The new school year is around the corner and we are already talking about the FY17 budget. The second FY17 budget work session was held yesterday in Room 102 of the LCPS Administration Building at 4 pm. The meeting was not televised. There were no fireworks, no big surprises, and a continued spirit of collaboration between staff and our elected School Board. Sounds nice. So, what really happened and why should I care?

Staff provided the School Board with a preliminary outlook for FY17 budget development. Superintendent Eric Williams began by returning to a slide from last year’s budget presentation of a small pie and a larger pie. The FY17 pie is bigger. The driving question, he said, for the FY17 budget is, “What budget should we propose to fulfill our mission and achieve our strategic goals?” – referencing the Vision 20/20 strategic plan. In other words, “Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow” – author unknown. 

The preliminary pie is the large pie because of an increase in the student population, benefit cost increases, compensation increases, new schools, and transportation. The fiscal outlook then adds a dollop of full-day kindergarten expansion, technology initiatives, and further reductions to class sizes. 

Take a look at the meeting documents, linked at the end of this post – are there possible major expenditures that haven't been spelled out? What about staffing levels that exceed the state standards of quality (SOQ)? Should training and development for educators and teaching assistants be more or less? Bring back all the middle school deans and discontinue dean allocation based on middle school student population? 

What can you do to support our schools? Participate in the Tuesday, November 3, 2015, elections for the Board of Supervisors and for the School Board. Vote for candidates who believe in great public schools and schools that serve Loudoun’s diverse and growing student population. 

Work Session Snapshot:

• School Board members: Debbie Rose (Algonkian) and Tom Reed (At-Large) were absent. All others were present. 
• FY17 Budget Adoption Calendar presented and to be acted on at the September 8th School Board meeting.
• Revenue Projections. Staff didn't have a local funding estimate yet but media reports from the last Board of Supervisors finance meeting suggest they will again be looking at the current tax rate or a tax rate lowered so the average existing property owner's tax bill remains flat.  
• 2.6% projected FY17 student enrollment increase or up to $25.1 million in additional funds to maintain current service levels. Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) noted that the needs of students are not constant due to the changing demographics and different service levels for students. Not all students equal the cost per pupil of $12,700 (current). Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) noted that there has been an increase at a rapid rate for student populations that require additional services. She asked whether this trend will continue. Dr. Williams responded that if student enrollment for ELL or special education is higher than projected, then the contingency can be tapped into to fulfill SOQ requirements. 
• New schools result in $1.2 million in additional fund to staff a new elementary school, Madison's Trust, expected to open in 2016 and preliminary staffing for a new middle school the following year. Hornberger noted that the Academies of Loudoun - Academy of Engineering and Technology has preliminary staffing needs to in FY17, and this expenditure may need to be included if the AET opening stays on schedule. 
• Step increases of up to $16.8 million in additional funds. This is equivalent to a 2.5% average salary increase. 
• Other Compensation. $16.8 million in additional funds. This 2.5% placeholder has been included for “potential initiatives such as a one-time payment for employees at the top of the scale, a cost-of-living adjustment, and a targeted classification review.”
• Virginia Retirement System (VRS). Additional $14.5 million. Due to a planned increase from the Virginia General Assembly.
• Healthcare. Additional $10.5 million, a projected increase of 15%. Staff is cautiously optimistic that this will be lower. Last year the actual increase was 9.9% but started at 15% in the budget.
• Fleet. Additional $4.5 million in expenditures. Bus replacements were deferred last year and turns out that was a good thing. LCPS has more buses than it needs based on a new analysis. Still, staff is asking to replace buses that have too much mileage on them to decrease maintenance costs. Take a look at Mr. Lewis’ Fleet Management Plan in the link below. There will be an $18 million projected cost avoidance over 4 years. How? By changing bus replacements based on mileage at 175K and by reducing the bus to route ratio to 1:1.15. The previous bus replacement strategy was based on a 15-year replacement cycle. Why the change? The data that is being collected has shown that as mileage goes up the costs go down.
• Other Possibilities. There are more possible major expenditures without prelims estimates: technology spending, class size reductions, expanding FDK, and any other needs that may arise. 
• Organizational Charts. 41 charts are being developed to illustrate the structure of the LCPS administration (departmental, director, administrators for each department). The org charts improve staffing transparency and will be published on the LCPS website when complete.

Visit these links to review the information that was presented at the budget work session:

FY 17 Preliminary Fiscal Outlook Memo

Draft FY 17 Budget Calendar

August 11, 2015, Budget Work Session Power Point

Fleet Management Plan

Senior Staff Organizational Chart

Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan

The next budget work session is scheduled for October 27 at 4pm.