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Votes

School Budget Seeks $78.2 Million Increase

Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick recommends increasing teacher's starting salary by more than $4,000.

Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick has recommended a $78.2 million increase in school spending, or a $539.4 million FY06 proposed operating budget compared to the current $461.2 million budget.

He called on the School Board to restructure the teacherÕs salary scale, increasing the starting salary from $35,784 to $40,000. To compensate for the pay hike, he called for a reduction in some of the step increases. The average improvement to the teachers, administrators, classified and auxiliary scale would be 4.7 percent based on the cost of living increase and market adjustment. The proposal also would provide step increases for satisfactory performance ranging from a low of 2.5 percent for administrators to a high of 4 percent for teachers.

The Loudoun Education Association had requested a 6 percent increase on the salary scale. Mac Corwine, president said at first blush the restructuring looked "very good. I will have to really É analyze it and see how it breaks down. I am pleased to see recognition of the cost of living and competition."

School Board Chairman John Andrews described the restructuring proposal as "interesting." He expressed concern about the total of the cost of living and performance increases. "The rest of the budget costs seem in line with enrollment, especially with five new schools opening next year."

Hatrick said 70 percent of the operating budget increase is due to enrollment increases, opening of new schools and continuing salary and benefit commitments to all employees.

ENROLLMENT is expected to reach 47,467 students by FY06, up from 19,967 in FY96. The school district hired 725 new teachers for this school year and another 800 to 900 new teachers will be needed in FY06.

Other proposed budget enhancements were:

* Reducing the average high school class size from 26.1 to 25.9 percent.

* Adding math resource teachers for middle and high schools.

* Expanding elementary foreign language program to grade 5 in all elementary schools.

* Initiating junior varsity lacrosse.

* Providing patrols for nights and weekends at a cost of $300,000.

* Increasing mileage reimbursement from 32.5 cents to 37.5 cents.

* Buying new computers at 13 schools to replace outdated models at a cost of $1.9 million.

MEMBERS of the Board of Supervisors joined the School Board for HatrickÕs presentation Tuesday night.

Scott York, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the total of the budget proposal. "It was lower than I anticipated," he said.

He said he planned to continue to support competitive teacher salaries, just as he has for the past eight years.

Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland) said it was good to see the focus on increasing starting teacher salaries. Regarding the budget proposal total, he said, "ItÕs a better starting point than last year."

He declined further comment until the School Board has had time to work on the budget. "They still have to chew on this document."

Bruce Tulloch, vice-chairman of the Board of Supervisors, described the budget as a "good beginning." He reserved further comment and encouraged the public to attend the public hearing on the spending proposal. The board has scheduled a public hearing at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 14, at the North Street Offices in Leesburg. The School Board is slated to vote on the budget and the Capital Improvement Program budget on Jan. 11.

To finance the budget, the school district expects increases in state revenue by $8.7 million, in federal revenue by $900,000, in local tuition and fees by $1 million, and in local taxes by $67.6 million.

Prior to the presentation of the numbers, Hatrick cited the return on the financial investment in Loudoun County public schools. He said 96 percent of high school seniors graduated, and 87 percent reported plans to further their education. Students continue to score above state and national averages on standardized tests, posting the highest SAT scores in the history of the school system. He also pointed out that all 59 schools that took the Virginia Standards of Learning tests are fully accredited.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

* The board voted in favor of the option to increase the middle school capacity from 1,184 students to an alternate maximum of 1,350 and the high school capacity from 1,600 to 1,800 students. The elementary school capacity is 875 students. The board members also approved setting those numbers as enrollment caps that cannot be exceeded without board approval. Copies of e-mails, mostly opposing the increase, were included in the School Board packet. School Board member Priscilla Godfrey (Blue Ridge) objected to the increase, saying it contradicts the boardÕs new goals and would result in one in 20 students not being able to participate in sports and other extra curricular activities. Vice-Chairman Thomas Reed said an increase in school size would be offset with a reduction in class size. Andrews said Stone Bridge High School is 300 students over capacity and the students are still high performers. He said the increase also would provide the board with the ability to create magnet schools. Dupree said the enrollment limit is critical. "We wonÕt allow this cap to be exceeded without a serious discussion," he said.

* School Board member Joe Guzman (Sugarland) recommended having a high school student on a rotating basis to serve as an honorary school board member.

* The board allowed rising juniors at Broad Run, Loudoun County and Stone Bridge High Schools to remain at their schools in spite of boundary changes. School Board member Robert Dupree (Dulles) said he supported the move because it will not generate overcrowding nor have an adverse impact on programs.

* School Board member Warren Geurin (Sterling) recommended amending the boardÕs legislative packet to include a request for increased funding for Limited English Proficient programs and services so that funding is aligned with current local school division practices.

* The board was presented with a proposal to allow students who live outside the attendance zones served by schools with low enrollment to attend those schools on a special permission basis. The transfers are "in the interest of balancing enrollment in these schools," the policy said. Students at schools with enrollment in excess of 95 percent of its capacity will be given preference. The application for special permission must be made within the first 10 days of the school year. There was no vote on the measure.