Schools: $44 Million More

Schools: $44 Million More

Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick reduced the operating budget request by $22 million to operate Loudoun County Public Schools during fiscal year (FY) 04.

Hatrick presented the School Board with a proposed budget of $309.2 million in local expenditures, a $22 million cut from the FY03-04 biannual budget proposing $331 million for FY04. Hatrick's proposal is a $44.7 million increase from last year’s local appropriation of $264.5 million to operate Loudoun’s 56 schools.

The budget increase is attributed in part to opening five schools in fall 2003, which will expand the public schools in the county to 61. The district also opened five schools last year.

“The big driver for us is increased enrollment,” Hatrick said at the Nov. 26 School Board meeting.

Student enrollment in FY04 is expected to increase by 2,718 students or 7.2 percent to 40,250 students. The enrollment in FY03 as counted on Sept. 28 was 37,532 students.

“The students are here in our county, and they are continuing to arrive every day,” Hatrick said.

With the increased enrollment, the School District is expected to receive another $7 million from the state for a total of $82 million. State cuts could happen again mid-year as they did last year when the School District had to cover a $2.7 million drop in state funding.

“If the state leaves us alone this year … we will probably be able to increase this figure as the year goes on,” Hatrick said.

To accommodate the enrollment increases and new school openings, the School District plans to hire 486 new positions, increasing the staff to 5,851 positions, as outlined in the proposed budget.

THE PROPOSED BUDGET provides $19.7 million in additional funding for the enrollment increases, $7.1 million for opening new schools, $3.7 million to continue implementing programs and $15.6 million for compensation and fringe costs.

“If we want to maintain excellence, we have to continue to meet those needs,” Hatrick said, adding that the budget as proposed is one the “community can afford.”

Total expenditures are proposed at $400.4 million including state and federal funding. School spending is expected to increase by $52.4 million from the FY03 appropriations of $348 million.

Hatrick outlined the major considerations in developing the budget, including accommodating student enrollment, providing a “competitive salary scale” and continuing implementing programs, he said. His proposed budget provides a 2 percent salary increase for employees and adds a step to the salary scale for long-time teachers, along with continuing several new programs. The programs include the full-day kindergarten at Sully Elementary School for at-risk students, elementary school foreign language, after-school string instruments and block scheduling, along with staffing special education deans at the high schools and for central library processing.

“We’re a lot closer than we had any right to expect,” said Warren Geurin (Sterling), adding that the proposed budget increase of $44.7 million is less than last year’s actual increase of $53 million.

The public hearing for the proposed operating budget is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 10. The School Board is tentatively scheduled to adopt the budget on Jan. 14.