$400 Million, Please

$400 Million, Please

School Board to ask Board of Supervisors to fully fund budget.

Again this year, the School Board will present a unanimous front on its proposed operating budget for the 2004 fiscal year.

The School Board voted 8-0 to send a $400.2 million budget request to the Board of Supervisors for final approval, a budget that includes a $305.8 million local transfer.

“There’s not too many places to cut it without affecting salaries or classroom size. I think [the supervisors] will realize that,” said School Board member John Andrews (Broad Run).

School Board members and staff cut $153,000 from Superintendent Edgar Hatrick’s proposed budget that already reduced $22 million from the FY '03–04 biannual budget. That budget called for a $67 million increase from FY '03 to FY '04.

THE SCHOOL BOARD considered public input and conducted four public workshops in December and January to attempt further cuts to the budget. The board agreed to add two more full-day kindergarten classes and a second activity-bus run to the high schools at a cost of $358,300. At the same time, the board modified the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools program and, along with staff, cut 12 positions — two assistant principals at Dominion High School and 10 full-time equivalent custodians — to save $526,400. The board maintained the proposed 2 percent salary scale adjustment for staff, 1 percent less than last year’s adjustment.

“I didn’t see any place I could cut it. Mr. Hatrick made it difficult,” Andrews said. “There are no other enhancements is his budget.”

School Board member Harry Holsinger (Blue Ridge) agreed: “This budget maintains the quality of what we have without any major enhancements. … We all agree what it takes to do the job, and we’re not asking for a lot of new programs.”

Last year, the School Board requested a $59 million increase from the previous year’s budget and received $53 million from the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors fully funded the FY '02 and FY '01 requests. This year, the supervisors targeted the School District to a $22 million increase to accommodate for 1 percent growth.

“Well, isn’t that wonderful. Our enrollment growth is over 8 percent. Our ESL, [our] special education, our remedial education, our gifted and talented education, our technical education — all of these needs have grown by a lot more than 1 percent,” said Warren Geurin (Sterling), adding that the School Board should educate Loudoun residents about the cost of education. “They are not against education. They are against the costs going up.”

“This budget clearly delineates the needs of excellent education. There’s no frivolous, crazy programs,” said Chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles), adding that he considered the budget to be solid and well designed. “This is not a budget that’s going to happen on its own. It’s going to need a lot of lobbying.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the School Board:

* Approved by a 7-1 margin the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for FY '04 through FY '08, a $520.2 million request that will need the Board of Supervisors’ approval.

The CIP covers the costs of building nine elementary, two middle and three high schools and renovating two existing schools, along with other capital projects. The projects slated for FY '04 include building two elementary schools in the Belmont Country Club- and the Leesburg-areas and renovating four middle schools and Loudoun County High School at a cost of $107.5 million.

“I’m concerned about the economic climate and where we’re going. Debt service takes away from operation funds,” said Andrews, who voted against the CIP.

Frederick Flemming (Leesburg) urged Andrews to change his vote. “A divided board is an invitation to the Board of Supervisors to make cuts,” he said.

* Approved 8-0 the FY '04–08 Capital Asset Replacement Program for $14.7 million for system replacement and maintenance at existing schools. The request for FY '04 is for $2.4 million.

“The purpose is to take care of the property the county and schools already own,” Hatrick said.