Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick presented his fiscal year 2007 Proposed Operating Budget at a School Board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 29.
"I hope that you [the School Board] and our community see the budget as a return on investment," Hatrick said. "There are a number of indicators for the success that we have had. … Among the indicators for our climate of success indeed being really successful is that we have opened the Academy of Science at Dominion High School. … I think the Academy of Science will not take long to develop a national reputation that will be one more indicator of excellence for Loudoun County schools."
Other indicators include an upward progression of SAT scores and that all 62 public schools that took the Standard of Learning tests met the state’s standards for full accreditation.
"Those results are remarkable for a school system our size," Hatrick said.
MAJOR BUDGET considerations include student enrollment growth, maintaining a competitive employee compensation package and partial recognition of the proposed Virginia retirement rate increase.
"The retirement system has told the commonwealth and reported to the governor and the General Assembly that the retirement system is not fully funded — and that the only way to get it to the funding level that it should be at is to increase the rates that are charged to localities who participate in the Virginia retirement system," Hatrick said.
The budget also takes into account market adjustments to recognize price fluctuations, from the increase in gasoline and natural gas prices to the cost of instructional materials and postage.
"We also take into account every aspect of being able to continue and improve Loudoun’s excellent instructional programs because that is the heart of the matter," he said. "Eighty percent of all the money proposed to be spent will be spent on instruction."
HATRICK SAID the school system projects that in the 2006-2007 school year, student enrollment will reach 50,740 students, adding 3,379 students to the school system. That is a 7.1 percent increase in the number of students in one year.
"We do not see anything that is going to reduce this rate of enrollment increase," Hatrick said. "The history of student enrollment growth also impacts the need for additional staff."
The student enrollment increase and the opening of new schools will account for 431.8 new positions in fiscal year 2007.
The 3,379 new students will also impact the use of utilities, the need for additional text books, as well as new bus routes requiring additional fuel and maintenance.
A COMPETITIVE EMPLOYEE compensation package is central to the budget request, Hatrick said.
The superintendent recommended increasing the starting teacher’s salary from $39,600 to $43,000.
"I wanted to recommend a higher starting salary, but in terms of the whole budget, I just was not able to do that."
Hatrick also recommended shortening the steps a teacher must take to reach the top of the pay scale, saying it takes too long for teachers to get to the top.
"The cost of housing here, as you well know, is just driving teachers out of a place to live," Hatrick said. "Somehow, if we value having our employees be part of our community, and I think we do, we have got to do something to address this business of purchasing power for teachers and other employees. … You have to imagine that for custodians and bus drivers and cafeteria workers, the problem is even worse."
Hatrick suggested a 3.5 percent cost of living adjustment and 1.5 percent market adjustment for all the public school system’s employees.
"Next year, it is anticipated that we are going to be opening six new schools. … The salary increases are little bit higher than I expected," chairman of the School Board John Andrews (Potomac) said.
Hatrick said he and his team tried to increase salaries during a fiscal year no new schools will be opened.
HATRICK PROPOSED spending money on expanding the elementary foreign language program to grade six in all middle schools.
School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) was disappointed that no new language programs were included in the year’s budget.
"We are corralling them and keeping them in Spanish and not giving them the choice. We are basically saying to the kids, if you want foreign language we’ll give you Spanish. If you want German or Mandarin … you will have to wait until the eighth grade," Ohneiser said.
The proposed budget recommends implementing full-day kindergarten for students who are in need of a full-day program.
"It is recognition that we have some students who are in need of a full-day kindergarten program so that they have an even start in the first grade," Hatrick said.
Loudoun County Public Schools has been named a 2007 National School Board Association host site.
Because of this, Hatrick suggested installing LCD projectors in all of the county’s public schools.
"We will be welcoming visitors from all over the United States … who will be coming to see how we do things in Loudoun County. My hope is … that they will see these overhead projectors."
Hatrick has also included money for a CAD software upgrade in the area of career and technology education, money for benchmark testing software and equipment for disaster recovery.
THE TOTAL expenditure increase in the superintendent’s proposed budget for this coming year is $102.5 million. The budget would increase from $529.3 million to $631.8 million
"Enrollment growth and continuing contractual obligations account for 87 percent of the operating budget increase," Hatrick said.