Ashburn, VA (March 2, 2017) – Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams gave a budget briefing to the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP) at the LCPS Administrative Offices in Ashburn.
The Proposed School Board Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is $1.12 billion, including $759,359,827 in local funding. The proposed budget is $93.6 million (9.1 percent) greater than the current budget. Under the proposed budget, county funding would increase $64.6 million or 9.3 percent. Williams put the budget numbers in context for the delegates.
The School Board Proposed Fiscal 2018 budget will be 67.5 percent funded by local revenue. That’s down from 72.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2009. When adjusted for inflation, the Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 cost per pupil is 7.3 percent ($930) less than it was in Fiscal Year 2009. “It’s interesting that, as we’ve grown, we’ve grown disproportionately in terms of students from low-income families, English language learners and also special education students. Those students – particularly special education students – require greater funds. So not only has our per-pupil gone down since FY09 when adjusted for inflation, the level of need for our student population has increased.”
Williams said the proposed budget increase is based on the School Board’s Strategic Goals and reflects growth in the projected number of students. “This budget maintains the present level of services.”
$31.8 million of the proposed budget is related to enrollment growth. LCPS is expecting almost 3,000 additional students for the next school year. Based on staffing standards, 302 positions are needed to deal with enrollment growth. The proposed budget maintains class size with an increased focus on tracking class sizes at the elementary level to minimize the number of classes that are deviating from the average.
Salaries and benefits account for $29.8 million in additional funding in the proposed budget. Of this amount, $15 million would go toward an average 2.2 percent step increase on salary scales; $10.3 million toward the restructuring of the teacher salary schedule; $2.4 million for the reclassification process; and $2.3 million for increased pay and hours for bus drivers. “We face challenges related to filling vacant bus driver positions. We want to assertively address that by raising compensation; by having fewer positions, but increasing the number of hours that the typical bus driver works.”
The restructuring of the teacher salary schedule emphasizes changes for mid-career teachers. While LCPS is at or near the top of starting teacher pay locally, it lags behind other jurisdictions in the middle of the salary scale. Across a 30-year career, an LCPS teacher with a master’s degree will make $316,000 less than a teacher in Fairfax County. “Even though we compete with all school divisions, Fairfax is a key competitor, as is Prince William, because of their size and the number of teachers they are hiring…
“I commend the School Board for making a multi-year effort to increasing the competitiveness of our salary schedule. We want every student to have an excellent teacher every year, every day. A competitive compensation package is one step, is one aspect, of attracting and retaining excellent teachers.”
Expanding full-day kindergarten is another budget priority. The proposed budget would bring full-day kindergarten enrollment to 82 percent, compared to 11 percent in 2014-15, 34 percent in 2015-16 and 52 percent during this school year. “Space really is the challenge,” Williams said of further growth in this area. “To get above 82 percent it’s going to be about creating additional space.” He noted that later this school year staff will provide the School Board a plan for consideration that would provide all students the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten in the future. Williams explained that the plan would specifically address creating and identifying additional space for full-day kindergarten.
The proposed budget reallocates funds to expand mental health services for high school students by creating unified support teams comprised of psychologists, social workers, school counselors and student assistance specialists. “There’s a significant emphasis on mental health and a reallocation of funds now in our budget to expand what we’re doing,” said Williams. “It’s really not new work in the area of mental health, but expanding it by creating a new unified support team for high school students that includes social workers, school psychologists, counselors and student assistance specialists.”
Williams said $5.5 million was reallocated in the proposed budget by eliminating 41.5 positions. Williams said staff asked the question “How might we spend money differently? Could we get a bigger bang for our buck?”
Williams said the potential $4.87 million funding gap at the equalized tax rate – based on the Board of Supervisors guidance to the county administrator – is the smallest that he is aware of in Loudoun County’s budget history.