Supervisors Leave $16M Gap In Schools Funding Request - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News

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Supervisors Leave $16M Gap In Schools Funding Request

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Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 10:14 pm, Mon Mar 18, 2013.

The Loudoun County School Board will have to find another $16 million to cut from its FY14 budget if tonight’s action of the Board of Supervisors is finalized April 3.

Supervisors voted to direct the county’s finance staff to create a budget based a $1.205 real estate tax rate, with a local transfer to the school system of just slightly more than $553.6 million. That amount will increase the school system’s budget from this year by $20.6 million—including $2.34 million that recently came from the state—but it still falls short of $22.3 million the School Board said it needs to cover its costs next year when it will open two new schools and welcome around 2,000 additional students.

The board also voted to forward a Capital Improvement Program that includes additions to Mercer Middle School and Freedom High School as well as stadium upgrades to Loudoun County High School in FY14, and the construction of two elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school in future years. However, it left out almost $9 million for artificial turf at high schools and pushed the planned Advanced Technology Academy from FY16 to FY18.

After cutting the budget proposal from Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick, the School Board requested more than $30 million in additional funding from the county, and County Administrator Tim Hemstreet included a $12 million increase in his proposed budget. The additional state money decreased the funding gap to $16 million.

“I think this board has kept its promises and directions in reducing taxes,” Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) said. “I think these are measured and reasonable approaches…I think that you shouldn’t make huge reductions just because you can. As long as we keep heading in the right direction think we will be accomplishing what we want to accomplish.”

Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) made a motion to restore the level of funding that would at least cover the cost of the new students in the system, but did not receive a second. He said he did not expect one, but said he wanted to attempt to get the school system the level of funding needed to accommodate student population growth.

Letourneau did support the final motion, however, and noted that the School Board had failed to articulate the impacts of a $16 million cut.

Supervisors said they believed savings could be found in the school budget beyond what has already been cut, and without touching the classrooms or students. They also expressed continued frustration that the school system’s administration has not been willing to work with the Government Reform Commission and the board on potential savings through increased collaboration.

“The effort was not about taking over education or dealing with stuff that had to do with teaching in the classrooms,” County Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) said. “It was about ways we could save money cooperatively.”

York also had strong words about Hatrick and a message for the School Board. “Change is good,” he said. “My word to the School Board is that change needs to happen at the top of the administration. Dr. Hatrick has served this county well…but sometimes in order for change to happen, change has to happen at the top.”

Supervisors Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) and Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) voted against the funding level, with both pushing for more cuts to the schools budget. Buona made a motion to set the tax rate at $1.19, which would have pulled another estimated $9 million from the schools budget. He said he believed all the cuts could come without touching the classrooms, including changing the grandfathering policy on the new benefits plan and what qualifies as a full-time employment.

“There are a lot of people hurting in this community,” he said. “I don’t even have a lot of confidence with where a lot of assessments have gone. There are some double-digit increases. We are going to slam some of these people with this.”

“The sad fact is we all know individuals who are having to tighten their belts,” Volpe said. “People are doing this in their personal budgets…This board has to look long and hard at the faces of some of those constituents that we will be hurting and people who may have to leave this community.”

The board has concluded its work on the budget for FY14 and will take final action at its meeting April 3.

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  • Glory posted at 9:48 pm on Thu, Mar 21, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1035

    What we've been seeing on both boards indicates that "motivated citizens who are watching what the government is doing" support other than what they are demonstrating: cuts, cuts, cuts and privatization efforts in education. We've watched the devastating effects of pure austerity measures in much of Europe; the BOS just hasn't caught onto those economic downturns nor an interest in deriving appropriate revenue(s).

    Although there was much apathy in the election cycle in 2011, citizens fully realized that and came out in force in 2012.

    Much of Loudoun Country believes in strong public education, improvements in transportation, protections for quality of life, environmental protections for safe water and food, infrastructure, fair tax structures, services that provide security and community involvement, and controls on rampant development.

    When politicians dismiss constituents' wishes and only listen to the ones that voted them in, they pay an ultimate price. I daresay the next board will have a more diverse political bent.

    Name one positive thing that this BOS has enacted in two years, maybe the restriction on panhandling? They got rid of all the good volunteer projects.

  • Lovettsville parent posted at 6:01 pm on Thu, Mar 21, 2013.

    Lovettsville parent Posts: 8

    Glory - point well made. But the Republican sweep on the BOS and the reformer sweep on the School Board strongly suggests motivated citizens who are watching what the government is doing support sustainable bridled spending. Contrary to what Farming says, while Loudoun is doing well in relative terms, there are many people out of work and facing RIFs with the federal budget cliff still looming. Our small firm is in wait-and-see mode, not hiring, no raises and increased health care premiums by 15%.
    Not Impressed - Are you really suggesting Hatrick run for the At-Large Supervisor seat? That would be a scary scenario and thankfully UNREALISTIC.

    When he finally does step down (sooner = better) his power will evaporate, his senior minions will leave, free thinking ideas for cost savings will finally be allowed to surface from within, and the gifted educators and school support staff who form the foundation of LCPS will continue doing what they do best.

  • Glory posted at 9:49 am on Thu, Mar 21, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1035

    "The BOS members were elected by the majority of Loudoun citizens so it is reasonable they know what their constituents want."

    Really? 30% of voters actually came out to vote in 2011, so the BOS represent about 16-17 % of Loudoun's total voting population. Recent studies indicate that politicians don't serve their constituencies well because their perceptions are inaccurate:

    "What Politicians Believe About Their Constituents: Asymmetric Misperceptions and Prospects for Constituency Control"

    "A study co-authored by a UC Berkeley researcher found that conservative politicians vastly overestimate how conservative their constituents are. David Brookman, a doctoral candidate in the campus department of political science, teamed up with University of Michigan political science graduate student Christopher Skovron to study the relationship between politicians’ political positions and their perception of public opinion."

    "The results of this study indicate an alarming trend in American governance.
    'For politicians to represent their constituencies, they need to have a sense (of) their constituents’ view,' he said in an email. 'The paper’s findings raise serious concerns about representative democracy on two of the most salient political issues.' Gabriel Lenz"

    "Brookman said that the study, published Sunday, raises alarming concerns that politicians don’t seem to care much about public opinion. 'Politicians spend so much money on their campaigns that if they thought knowing public opinion was important they could ascertain it with a pretty cheap poll,' he said in an email. 'I think the right question to ask is how to change politics such that they care about having accurate perceptions.'" from Jason Liu, The Daily Californian

  • Not impressed posted at 5:50 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    Not impressed Posts: 34

    Not to burst your bubble, but the decision to pay more than market value (45 acres for $20 M) for a school at the ill-suited NCC and sell 75 acres for a song (also $20 M) near Waxpool at the LoCo Parkway, where a school is actually needed, was all Pork and all York.

    Also FYI the voters elect the School Board and they hire and fire the super, not the devious Mr. York.

    When Hatrick's contract expires next year he should run for BOS Chairman in 2015. He would wipe up Scott York in an election and at least funnel tax dollars to a different bunch of cronies.

  • The Operative posted at 4:17 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    The Operative Posts: 207

    Does this finally mean that the School Board will finally get rid of Hatrick & Adamo. The LCPS system is so top heavy with inflated six figure annual salaries for administrators, that the teachers and parents end up spending their own money for school supplies. The LCPS Admin has made many incredibly expensive decisions, such as purchasing over inflated land or purchasing land that make zero sense to build a school, that the BoS should hold them accountable. I've said it for a long time, Hatrick has to go, he is holding the LCPS back from it's full potential.

    The current School Board has made so many cuts, such as bus routes, health care cost. Let's find a compromise, get rid of 10-20% of the high level administrators many of whom draw 100K+ salaries. Utilize the BoS land/purchasing departments, LCPS has at least 3 duplicate departments. There's your savings. Frankly it's about time Chairman York put his foot down.

  • Lovettsville parent posted at 4:14 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    Lovettsville parent Posts: 8

    The BOS members were elected by the majority of Loudoun citizens so it is reasonable they know what their constituents want. Dr. Hatrick on the other hand was more self-appointed (those who have been in the school system awhile know this to be fact). I would be happy to pay more taxes if the one asking for the money was remotely credible in justifying the need AND TRANSPARENT with how he is spending the funds, until that time I support the BOS' decision to withhold funding 100%. If the School Board believes they need more funding, just do it! Make the change asap.

  • David Dickinson posted at 3:56 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    David Dickinson Posts: 955

    “My word to the School Board is that change needs to happen at the top of the administration. Dr. Hatrick has served this county well…but sometimes in order for change to happen, change has to happen at the top.”

    Music to my ears.

  • Farming in Loudoun posted at 11:01 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    Farming in Loudoun Posts: 1

    • It is a shame that in ‘the richest county in the nation’ we cannot pay the bill.
    • The Virginia General Assembly has ‘enabled’ localities to enact a local income tax, then why do we rely on an antiquated real estate tax to fund the County operations.
    • I, besides farm, drive a LCPS bus.
    • Now I know that it is not required to transport regular Ed Students it is only required for Special Ed Students. Why not save more money and only transport those that are required by code to be transported. But wait most parents work and rely on LCPS transportation. Can’t do that. So let us cut benefits to the part time bus drivers (currently and for the past thirteen years three and a half hours entitled the employee benefits) that must be on call if school is called off early.
    • Well then no benefits, well then who would you like to transport those students? Minimum wage drives that must have a CDL, manage students (BOS & School Board should try that) and traverse Loudoun roadways where some of the drivers text, talk on the cell phones, read and put on make-up and not use turn signals, talk about distracted driving.
    • Now I know we want our tax dollars spent wisely and do not want to spend more than we take in, that is basic economics. Our population has increased dramatically over that past several decades and when you have more folks it costs more and the BOS are required to provide for the citizens: Public Safety and Public Education

  • Leesburgmetal posted at 10:23 pm on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Leesburgmetal Posts: 1

    I wonder why we are cutting education instead of cutting the funding for roads in Sterling, Ashburn, and South Riding? All of those locations have populations that are large enough to handle at least some part of their infrastructure needs, like parks, roads, and police.

    It only makes sense that if Leesburg, P'ville, and Middleburg can do it, then those overgrown sprawling areas can do it.

    For too long the cost of out of control growth has been shifted to the land owners in Western Loudoun County and I, for one, am sick of an $8k yearly property tax on .72 acres to pay for the excesses of the east when I cannot get the road side drainage in front of my house fixed. This drainage issue has been a problem since 1863 when it was documented in The Waterford News.

    Where is the outrage? Quieted by the inequities of a single chamber of government that represents popularity and with no checks for the interests of land owners, whose properties cost the County less to service.

  • LoudounPatriot posted at 8:21 pm on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    LoudounPatriot Posts: 90

    It is sad to see how easily the Board of Supervisors can convince themselves that their actions have anything to do with fiscal prudence. These elected officials have chosen to ignore the will of the people of Loudoun in order to implement an ideology that does not value government services. They have made injurious cuts to all county employees' compensation and the services they provide to Loudoun residents.

    Now they are attacking public education, slashing 24 million dollars from this year's school budget and are attempting to slash 32 million dollars from next year's school budget. These are draconian cuts, not prudent cost savings. These cuts will result in a diminished capacity to provide efficacious educational services that Loudoun families expect for their children.

    Supervisor Higgins states, "As long as we keep heading in the right direction think we will be accomplishing what we want to accomplish.” It would appear that what he and the other Board members wish to do is to cut personnel costs by as much as possible regardless of consequences. They wish to provide MINIMAL SERVICES to Loudoun residences, thus excellence in education is not a priority for them.

    Chairman York claims,“The effort was not about taking over education or dealing with stuff that had to do with teaching in the classrooms, It was about ways we could save money cooperatively.” Clearly the CHAIRMAN DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH. The BOS wants to exert maximum control over education, particularly a type of education they espouse.

    Supervisor Buona believes more cuts can be made to the school budget "without touching the classrooms," thus displaying a regrettable ignorance of how important support staff are to the successful educational process. His ignorance will result in a precipitous drop in the quality of instruction of Loudoun's children.

    Supervisor Volpe expresses concern over the people who may have to leave this community. Unfortunately, she has little conception of how important a superior education system is in the decision of families to stay in Loudoun and for future families in their decision to move here.

    Loudoun County will suffer for the ideological decisions made by this Board of Supervisors. They will not survive the next BOS election, but they will cause terrible harm to the children of Loudoun during their four years in office, as they are willing to sacrifice the futures of our children in the guise of saving money.

    Don't let them do this to us! Demand that the Board listen to the WILL OF THE PEOPLE! Fund our schools at the level needed to provide students with a real future.

  • IGrewUpHere posted at 7:12 pm on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    IGrewUpHere Posts: 4

    "York also had strong words about Hatrick and a message for the School Board. “Change is good,” he said. “My word to the School Board is that change needs to happen at the top of the administration. Dr. Hatrick has served this county well…but sometimes in order for change to happen, change has to happen at the top.”

    Really Mr. York????? You want change? Good, then do our fair county a favor and DON'T RUN FOR RE-ELECTION next time. I think our County needs a Chair of the BOS who has a backbone, who isn't joined at the hip with this bogus baseball team, who isn't a "reformed carpenter (YOUR WORDS SIR)" who can't read a memo/email and tell it has legal implications. You change parties when it suits you. And now you're throwing the best Superintendent of Schools this county has ever had under the bus? I have thought little of you in the past and think even less now! TIME FOR YOU TO LEAVE THE BOS WITH YOUR BUDDY DELGAUDIO!

  • Not impressed posted at 2:56 pm on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Not impressed Posts: 34

    To sum up:
    • Two years ago, a trumped-up appraisal was ordered to compensate the National Conference Center $6.5 million to build a parking deck.
    • Three months later, the Board of Equalization reduced the NCC’s appraisal by the price of the parking deck so the NCC would not have to pay taxes based on an artificially inflated appraisal.
    • York and the BOS used the appraisal to justify paying the NCC $20 million for 45 acres of unbuildable land to build a new high school in Lansdowne. The entire 112-acre NCC property was appraised at only $22 million.
    • The BOS fired the tax assessor who had increased the county’s taxable real estate portfolio by $18 billion and appointed the commissioner of revenue, who they control, to do appraisals.
    • The board approved a 4 to 6 lane highway that will run from I-95 at the Occoquan to the entrance to Belmont Ridge Middle School.
    • This is NOT for a “friggin’ outer beltway,” York said. No sir-ee.
    • The BOS voted to destroy five free, public, irrigated sports fields on a separate unbuildable parcel to actually site the high school in Lansdowne since the NCC parcel cannot support such a structure, and never could. What they will do about subterranean water and construction trash at the new site is not yet clear.
    • Supported by deceptive comments from the dais by Supervisors LeTourneau (the champion of athletic fields) and Buona, in October 2012 York sold 75 prime buildable acres in Ashburn to Raging Wire for $20 million. The land was originally intended to be a school site and is ideally located to relieve overcrowding at Briar Woods and Broad Run High Schools.
    • This week, the BOS shorted the public schools’ budget by $20 million to run new schools needed to house kids who will move into residential development on land at One Loudoun, Belmont, and Lexington Seven that these same supervisors rezoned from commercial to residential to satisfy developers who give them large donations.
    • Mr. Buona loudly proclaimed the BOS will reduce the tax RATE.
    • The BOS blames the cumulative reeking mess on Edgar Hatrick, who they can’t control because Loudoun Public Schools are expert in dealing with middle school bullying, and that is the MO of this Board of Supervisors. Government by clowns is both inefficient and expensive. In Loudoun it is enabled by taxpayer inattention.
    Voting out York and this BOS is a start to regaining control, but it won’t be enough. Taxpayers have to shake off entitlement and pay attention to the appraisal process, not the tax rate that Mr. Buona used to divert their attention.
    Few taxpayers understand the concept of equalization and how it has been used to deceive them and seize control of the taxing process to milk residents of HOAs and relieve the burden on owners of large parcels that will eventually be purchased in sweetheart deals enabled by county government.
    Who isn’t paying their fair share of real estate taxes in Loudoun County? It’s not hard to figure that out. But where is the publisher, the commonwealth attorney, or the federal investigator who will break the vise-like grip of the invisible hand that controls the revenue stream in “the richest county in the nation?”
    The county government is in the hands of sycophants who serve the greed and avarice of those who want roads built at public expense to open the acreage west of Route 15 to residential development.

  • Sundance posted at 10:15 am on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Sundance Posts: 119

    If the BOS heard from actual parents in this county, instead of just lining up their operatives to speak to them at BOS meetings, they'd know that nobody thinks the Board does a very good job when it comes to education.

    They praise the Sheriff for blowing his budget and then cut the education system short. Incredible. When's election day?

  • norges55 posted at 10:03 am on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    norges55 Posts: 1042

    It's the spending stupid
    Cut admin it's a education system not a admin system..
    How about them school buses fees? They look better all the time.
    Does Dr. Hatrick still get that 14 thousand car allowance?

  • Glory posted at 9:27 am on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1035

    Is it any surprise that many on both the BOS and School Board seem to favor vouchers, charters, home-schooling, and privatization in an effort to diminish our public system?

  • Buffacuse posted at 8:29 am on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Buffacuse Posts: 536

    loudoun parent: I am shocked at your narrow-minded approach to things Loudoun dare you suggest that the same BoS--a wholly owned subsidiary of our developers--that approves every new community w/o question, and therefore pumps thousands of new kids into our schools, actually pay to educate the kids w/o penalizing those of us who have been here for years.

    Hey...somebody voted for these toadies...

  • loudoun parent posted at 8:09 am on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    loudoun parent Posts: 143

    How can the BOS essentially say to cram 2500 additional students into existing classrooms and not think that it will impact the classroom? Do not punish long term residents by forcing additional students into our schools without providing the funding for them!