Last night’s Board of Supervisors (BoS) work session on the LCPS budget, together with the visiting School Board (LCSB), lasted nearly four hours and was the most productive, honest, earnest, and impressive board meeting we recall seeing. The FY17 budget will not be a “cake walk”, and it remains CRUCIAL that everyone with a stake in the outcome makes their voices heard.  There were signs last night that your voices may receive the appropriate consideration and attention they deserve.

Chmn. Phyllis Randall did a superb job setting and maintaining a positive, productive tone and facilitating a depth of discussion appropriate to the subject. All of the LCSB members present and most of the BoS members demonstrated fervent intent to do the best job possible reconciling the responsibilities of their offices with an apparent goal of supporting public education in Loudoun County.
The BoS meeting packet (see BoardDocs to read it) contained a lengthy list of answers to questions the BoS had asked LCPS staff several weeks ago. The members explained they had received the packet just an hour before the meeting, but rather than placing them at a disadvantage, it encouraged a more open than confrontational dialog with the LCSB that may have provided insight into what each BoS member may consider their foremost priorities.

Some questions from the BoS sought answers while others seemed more like opportunities to express on the record some of the complexities with which LCPS contends. After the BoS asked the LCSB several times to express operating budget priorities similar to the written list of CIP projects they had submitted, Chmn. Eric Hornberger invited Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams to address areas LCPS might need to scrutinize further should the gap not fully close between budget and appropriation. Williams was extremely careful to qualify his remarks as illustrative of process rather than in any way indicative of specific items that might be cut.

Key at this point in the process is the property tax rate the BoS adopts which will determine how much can be appropriated to LCPS. The current rate is $1.135. $1.14 would be the “equalized” rate for homeowners, $1.15 is an option, and $1.17 is the “advertised” rate.

Regarding the property tax rate that will set the stage for LCPS budget reconciliation, Supervisor Ralph Buona (Ashburn) indicated it would be unlikely we would see adoption of the $1.17 rate that would fully fund the LCPS budget. Supervisor Buona and Supervisor Matt Letourneau (Dulles) stressed that unlike previous years, the “equalized” rate ($1.14) would not be the “start and end” of the conversation, and that they might be able to see their way to something in between.

This would still leave a funding gap that the LCSB reconciliation process would need to close, but it seems like a reasonable place to BEGIN the conversation. As you can see, there will be plenty more opportunities for these issues to be addressed in a marathon of work sessions (not all of which may concern the LCPS budget) until the BoS is scheduled to adopt the budget on Tuesday, April 5th.

Consider speaking at the public hearings, simply showing up to show solidarity, or contacting your BoS and LCSB representatives directly to make your voice heard. Many of those now in office seem receptive to such comments and have demonstrated willingness to act on them.

Here is a schedule of activities (obtained from several sources, hopefully correct and authoritative):

Wed March 2 at 6-10pm: BoS Budget Work Session (first, completed)]
Sat March 5 at 9am: CANCELED BoS Budget Work Session]
Mon March 7 at 6-10 pm: BoS Budget Work Session
Tue March 8 at 4 & 6:30 pm: 2nd Tuesday LCSB Meeting
Wed March 9 at 6 pm: BoS Public Hearing (general)
Thu March 10 at 6-10 pm: BoS Budget Work Session
Sat March 12 at 9am: BoS Budget Work Session
Mon March 14 6:30pm: BoS Public Hearing (Central Loudoun Elementary School Attendance Zones)
Tue March 15 at 6-10pm: BoS Budget Work Session
Sat March 19 at 9am: BoS Budget Work Session
Mon March 21 at 6-10pm: BoS Budget Work Session
Thu March 24 at 6-10pm: BoS Budget Work Session
Thu March 29 at 4 & 6:30 pm: 4th Tuesday LCSB meeting (rescheduled due to Spring Break)
Tue April 5 at 5-9pm: Adoption of the FY17 county (incl. LCPS) budget by the BoS

To view live-streamed or archived videos of BoS meetings, see: https://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=389
For LCSB meetings, see: http://lcps.org/Page/140009

To contact the Board of Supervisors, visit this link for phone and email addresses:  https://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?nid=2178

To contact the School Board, visit this link for phone and email addresses:  http://www.lcps.org/Page/1629