Budget Reconciliation: School Board Vows To Protect Students, Employees - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News

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Budget Reconciliation: School Board Vows To Protect Students, Employees

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Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 2:44 pm

Transportation, operations and maintenance costs are the line items the Loudoun County School Board has directed the schools superintendent to trim as he searches for $16 million in savings from the adopted budget.

Talks about how to find savings in the School Board’s adopted $859.69 million budget for FY14 started at a meeting last night. Board members took straw votes to give Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick direction about which programs and expenditures to avoid slashing as he prepares a reconciled version of the budget.

In three unofficial votes, the board asked Hatrick not to increase class sizes, avoid employee layoffs, and to come up with a plan to divvy up $12 million that has been earmarked for employee raises.

“With all due respect I hope you’re going to leave me a little wiggle room,” Hatrick said with a laugh after the third vote directed him not to touch the money set aside for raises. “Either that or start writing some checks.”

Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) initiated the straw votes because, if the board’s budget reconciliation were to result in employee layoffs, it must notify employees by next Wednesday.

As several board members listed their spending priorities, most indicated which line items they want protected, and few suggested specific cuts.

Bill Fox (Leesburg) called the elimination of teacher pay raises a cut to the classroom. “We’re not necessarily taking away classroom supplies, but teachers’ pay affects the classroom.”

The repeated sentiment from a few board members was that the transportation department, as well as operations and maintenance costs of other departments, have increased disproportionately to the overall growth of the school system. If reductions are targeted in those areas, Fox said, “we can continue to hold our heads high and know that we continue to provide a great education here in Loudoun County.”

Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) said she wouldn’t be opposed to increasing class sizes in schools where enrollment is below the school district average. She also suggested only giving teachers who earn their National Board Certification a one-time bonus instead of a permanent raise.

She has opposed cuts to transportation during the past few years of budget negotiations because many students in western Loudoun, much of which she represents, already have hour-long bus rides to school.

Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said she does not want to eliminate freshmen sports teams. But Fox, on the other hand, told board members he wouldn’t be opposed the idea.

In an interview before last night’s board meeting, Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run), chairman of the School Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee, said holding off on the Technology Education Plan may be one budget reduction to consider, Kuesters said. The plan envisions a digital device such as a tablet for every student, from fourth through 12th grade, and is slated to begin this coming fiscal year as a pilot program with 650 devices.

He called cuts that eliminate all employee salary raises or increase class sizes the easy, but lazy way to find savings.

“We don’t want to do easy things,” Kuesters added, “We want to look closely at what expenses are necessary and what are not necessary.”

The first version of the schools’ FY14 budget, drafted by Hatrick, was $876.39 million. It would have been a 6.47 percent increase over the current fiscal year’s budget, but Hatrick called the spending plan just enough to cover the status quo and pay for the opening of two new schools and an additional 2,500 students.

The School Board trimmed his budget by $16.7 million by eliminating 15 newly requested positions and equalizing what it pays for its two employee health care options. Among other changes, the board also voted to drop all future hires who work fewer than 20 hours a week from health care coverage and Virginia Retirement System eligibility.

After the county Board of Supervisors adopted its budget last week, giving the school system just slightly less than $553.6 million in local funds, several supervisors suggested the School Board find savings by decreasing the employer's share in health care coverage for all current employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week.

Joey Mathews, president of the Loudoun Education Association, said that is what hundreds of school system employees fear. About 580 employees – including school bus drivers, library assistants, teachers assistants and some kindergarten teachers – work fewer than 20 hours a week.

“They signed onto a job that health insurance,” Mathews said. “Don’t take that away from them now.”

Hatrick will present a list of proposed reductions, as well as a plan to give employee raises, at the next School Board meeting April 23.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Hiking posted at 5:11 pm on Tue, Apr 16, 2013.

    Hiking Posts: 1

    Lightbuy makes a good point about bus drivers. LCPS already has a hard enough time recruiting them, and eliminating health insurance coverage will put Loudoun County at a severe competitive disadvantage with neighboring counties. Further, the 30 hour cut-off is unrealistic. Very few regular ed bus drivers are offered 30 hour contracts (the norm is around 22 1/2 hours), yet a great many work more than 30 hours. Why? Because they're driving our kids to field trips, driving our athletic teams to games, substituting for drivers who are sick or whose buses break down, and simply going to fuel their buses - all, tasks above and beyond their 22 1/2 hour contract. The sub-30 hour contract is a gimmick the County uses to provide scheduling flexibility and cut costs, but the truth is that a great many drivers who do the schools' work will be unfairly and unreasonably denied health insurance. this will work to the detriment of the school system and its students, our children, as future drivers will choose to drive for other systems and leave Loudoun high and dry.

  • Glory posted at 8:35 am on Fri, Apr 12, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1064

    "guess I may be speaking from experience working with the school system and knowing exactly what takes place" -

    Generalizing your frustration to all LCPS educators is irresponsible. So much more to see if you'd take time to shadow any teacher, counselor, social worker, dean, etc.

  • Concerned tax payer posted at 11:50 pm on Thu, Apr 11, 2013.

    Concerned tax payer Posts: 3

    Well, guess I may be speaking from experience working with the school system and knowing exactly what takes place...wouldn't have made the statement if it were not a fact.

  • Glory posted at 4:46 pm on Thu, Apr 11, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1064

    3 substance prevention specialists and 20 social workers are responsible for all 80 + schools. Schools can only encourage abstinence and reduce recidivism. Maybe parents should be fined for instances of student substance or alcohol abuse to pay specialists’ salaries and for the time and trouble of local law enforcement authorities?

    Shopping? Itinerant teachers eat lunch in their car between sites. Social workers and parent liaisons work with churches and local social services to provide needs, maybe food or clothing from stores? How do you know school employees are not on personal leave? No accountability? We sign in and out of our building so that staff knows our whereabouts. Cheat the system? If there is cheating, you should discuss this with the teacher and administration directly.

    A real world for educators is living with care and concern for students everyday and through long evenings of paperwork and e-mail responses to parental concerns.

  • norges55 posted at 6:44 am on Thu, Apr 11, 2013.

    norges55 Posts: 1042

    @ working you got a issue with a certain issue bring it up. My statements/opinions are out there for you to see. If you care to disagree with me bring up some facts backed by something besides your say-so.

  • Concerned tax payer posted at 12:59 am on Thu, Apr 11, 2013.

    Concerned tax payer Posts: 3

    How about the school board take a look at the school social workers and the substance abuse prevention specialists and the amount of hours they are paid for in comparison to the amount of hours they actually work. And then compare why the rates of substance abuse is increasing in the schools, despite so many staff being alotted to these programs to reduce the recidivism rates and encourage abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Perhaps it's the fact that the staff are spending time shopping instead of being in their schools or perhaps it's that the staff leave early and there is no accountability for where they are. It must be nice to be paid and not have to work a full 8 hour day, I would love to work 4 or 5 hours and get paid for 8, why not, if no one is holding me accountable...not how the real world works and it's setting a poor example for our children. Glad my hard earned tax paying dollars are going to people who cheat the system.

  • joymaloney posted at 8:03 pm on Wed, Apr 10, 2013.

    joymaloney Posts: 8

    I think it's great that the School Board is asking Dr. Hatrick to reconcile the budget in this fashion. It will be interesting to see where he cuts. As for the suggestion to cut benefits for part-time employees, it was already done for future hires. The Board of Supervisors is suggesting that the School Board take health insurance away from their current part-time employees instead of grandfathering them in. That's a bad idea if they want to keep those employees.

  • lcpssucker posted at 6:11 pm on Wed, Apr 10, 2013.

    lcpssucker Posts: 16

    Hmmmm. Let's look at alternatives to layoffs and true ways to reduce the budget. I suggest LCPS ask it's employees for ideas (not the Administrators). Some ideas I've heard are:
    1. Instead of looking at layoffs, why doesn't LCPS look at not hiring from the outside and redistribute their internal candidates thereby eliminating positions without eliminating the person
    2. Eliminating "specialist" that are out of the building or in meetings more than they are working with students
    3. Stop putting Promethean Boards/Smart Boards in copier rooms for an "in the event of" event.
    4. Stop giving away all the Freebies without documentation. The employees see how much is going out the door,without one question being asked.
    5. Stop providing bus service to students with disabilities to sites across the county when the same program exists in their homeschool area or to walkers that have their parents drive them to the closest bus stop so they don't have to walk or so their parents don't have to sit in a back up at the school (yeah - it really happens)
    6. Stop forcing the students to pick 2 fruits and 2 vegetables at lunch just for them to throw it away
    7. Stop automatically giving free school supplies/backpacks/lunchboxes to new students, or at the beginning of the school year to students that have a certain heritage (I have to buy my kids school supplies - don't you?)

    It's not 12 million but it's a start.....

  • Working more than 40 posted at 5:26 pm on Wed, Apr 10, 2013.

    Working more than 40 Posts: 9

    Norges55, what gripe is it exactly you have with the school system? Every comment from you is negative. I have read not a single positive comment from you. What's your problem? Don't bring up being a fiscally responsible taxpayer who demands the same from the school system. Lots of your comments are direct hits against teachers. Teachers who do not control the finances of the school system, yet you aren't supportive of teachers either. What's your deal?

  • Glory posted at 5:02 pm on Wed, Apr 10, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1064

    Kudos lightguy!

    Contracts typically come out late April, early May, not just for a few people at a private sector job, but for thousands. Without just cause, one cannot fire employees who receive satisfactory evaluations, but reductions in force are possible. Also, once contracts are signed, employees cannot break those to transfer to neighboring jurisdictions.

    I'd invite detractors to drive one of those LCPS buses to truly understand that "it's pretty hard to find someone with a commercial drivers license that wants to work 2 hours in the morning, followed by a 4 or 5 hour unpaid break, and then another hour or two in the afternoon- let alone dealing with the kids."

  • lightguy posted at 4:35 pm on Wed, Apr 10, 2013.

    lightguy Posts: 70

    David, I think the key difference is that teachers are under contract. There may also be some state or federal requirements, but there's a certain point where the teachers have to give notice if they are coming back or not. Once they give notice that they are coming back, i believe their contracts are renewed. If you fire them after that for no cause, your in violation of the contract.

    The contract cuts both ways. Without a new contract being in place before school ends, teachers would no longer be employees once school ended and would be under no obligation to tell the school system if they were coming back or not. The school system wouldn't know if they needed to hire 800 new teachers or 8,000.

    As for the benefits- from the ads I see in the paper all the time for school bus drivers, it appears that they can't hire enough of them as it is. I thought giving them benefits was one of the main incentives they gave to get more people. I would think it's pretty hard to find someone with a commercial drivers license that wants to work 2 hours in the morning, followed by a 4 or 5 hour unpaid break, and then another hour or two in the afternoon- let alone dealing with the kids.

  • norges55 posted at 4:10 pm on Wed, Apr 10, 2013.

    norges55 Posts: 1042

    yahoooooooo David!

  • David Dickinson posted at 3:32 pm on Wed, Apr 10, 2013.

    David Dickinson Posts: 980

    "...if the board’s budget reconciliation were to result in employee lay offs, it must notify employees by next Wednesday."

    Here is a microcosm of public sector dystopia. In the private sector, HR walks in and says something to the effect of "Mr. Dickinson, you have 10 minutes to clean out your desk. Have a nice day." In the public sector, we have gobs of rules to ensure the statist system remains untouched.

    "...several supervisors suggested the School Board find savings by dropping health care coverage to all current employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week."

    Gee, ya think? Benefits for part time employees? It never should have happened and it shouldn't be allowed to continue. However the SB gets their cost savings, they get it. But benefits for part time employees are unreasonable when we have taxpayers with full time jobs who are losing benefits.