Loudoun County Public Schools’ superintendent has outlined recommendations on how to hold the district’s FY14 budget closer to the current fiscal year’s, while covering the costs to open two new elementary schools and enroll an additional 2,500 students.
The Board of Supervisors' allocation of local tax funding to the schools requires $16.02 million in reductions to the School Board’s adopted FY14 $859.69 million budget.
Following the School Board’s direction, Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick's most recent version of the budget avoids any employee layoffs or any increase in class sizes, and also keeps a $12 million placeholder to provide 2 percent salary raises for all employees who receive a satisfactory evaluation.
His spending plan instead reduces the number of newly requested positions, including fewer kindergarten teachers, substitute teachers, assistant teachers, librarians and custodians, among other reductions.
“Everyone in our school system, including students, will feel the impacts of many of these reductions,” Hatrick wrote in a letter to the School Board posted on the school system website late Thursday. “But we have made every effort to protect students to the greatest extent possible by limiting personnel increases to school based positions only.”
The plan would reduce the number of new full-time equivalent positions in the budget by 103; Hatrick’s initial budget proposal presented in January requested 333 new positions. Targeted for reductions are 20 assistant ELL (English Language Learner) teachers, three special education teaching assistants and three part-time librarian positions, specifically at Legacy, Liberty and Pinebrook elementary schools. The current employees in each of those positions will be reassigned to fill other needed teaching positions, according to the budget outline.
The proposal eliminates the planned expansion of full-day kindergarten at low-income, Title 1 schools by reducing five kindergarten teaching positions and five kindergarten teacher assistant positions to save $550,000. It cuts back the number of technology assistants who work at each middle school from two to one, saving 14 positions and $479,000. Those employees will also be reassigned to fill other needed positions.
The plan eliminates all 15 requested non-school based positions to save $866,104, as well as 32 custodial staff members to save $1.27 million. It also holds off on a new assistant principal position and librarian position at John Champe High School until it reaches more than 1,000 students, to save $190,710.
Several budget line items will remain at the current FY13 level, including funding for substitutes, saving $2.23 million; transportation for athletics and school field trips, saving $1.04 million; and tuition reimbursement, which Hatrick noted, will limit the number of employees who can receive tuition assistance.
All departments were asked to hold their operation and maintenance accounts at or near FY13 levels to save more than $4.5 million. Those accounts cover the costs of instructional materials, maintenance supplies, computers and other expenses.
The proposal cuts back funding for new part-time positions and overtime costs by $1.44 million, which, Hatrick noted, will leave just enough money to cover unusual or high volume workloads for only the most critical needs.
It eliminates any funding for unanticipated inclement weather next year, to save $267,000, and reduces the vehicle fuel and maintenance fund by $1.1 million. If fuel costs increase, student transportation will be affected, according to Hatrick.
The School Board is now working toward a reconciled budget of $843.67 million for FY14, 2.5 percent more than the district’s current fiscal year’s budget, while enrollment is projected to grow by 3.8 percent.
“It is sad that our County is choosing to constrict your funding,” Hatrick wrote to board members, “but I hope that our suggested resolution will meet with your approval when you meet on April 29.”
See Hatrick's full budget outlined here.
Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said reducing the fund for substitute teachers is the recommendation in Hatrick's proposal she is most concerned about. As a second-grade teacher at Cool Spring Elementary School, she recalls teachers avoiding taking time off when their children were sick or even for a family wedding because they were concerned they could not get a substitute teacher.
“That put a lot of pressure on the teachers because they didn’t have assurances that they would be able to have substitutes when they needed them,” she said, noting that she plans to request that reductions be restricted to substitutes for teachers out of the classroom for staff development, as opposed to teachers requesting time off.
Turgeon later added, “We’re going to have to find the reductions somewhere.”
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 elementary schools and 2,500 additional 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, many school district employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week feared they would be required to pay more in health care coverage.
Hatrick will formally present his reconciled budget recommendations to the School Board at its meeting Tuesday, and the board will hold a work session on the budget at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 29.