The Board of Supervisors, in a straw vote, has recommended cutting $5 million from the Loudoun County Public Schools budget.
School Board Chairman John Andrews said he understands the supervisors are trying to keep a reign on spending and the tax rate. They want to keep the tax rate below $1.05, he said.
The assessment on Andrews’ own house increased 25 percent, he said. "I empathize with them. It’s a delicate balance they have."
ON THE OTHER hand, he does not know where the School Board can find reductions of that magnitude without cutting salaries. "My first reaction is we’re trying to make a statement about teachers’ salaries by hiring the best," he said. "[Chairman] Scott York made a compelling argument … that with the high cost of living and housing especially, in order to create an incentive for teachers to come to Loudoun, we need the higher salaries."
The School Board approved an unprecedented increase in the starting pay for new teachers, from $35,784 to $40,000. Its budget also includes additional pay for teachers working toward or having advanced degrees and an average classified pay raise of 8.7 percent.
School Board member, J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) said the Supervisors’ first recommendation was to cut salaries of administrators, teachers and classified personnel by 1 percent at a savings of $2.8 million. Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) then suggested another $2.2 million in reductions, for a total of $5 million.
The salary reduction was based on a proposed 1 percent cut in county employees' pay.
IN OBJECTING to the salary cuts, Geurin said school officials need to be rewarded for their professional service. "We have to recruit and retain the best qualified teachers," he added.
A 1 percent cut in the $40,000 starting salary would result in a $39,600 beginning pay, he said. ‘I’d rather not do that, but if we have to, we have to."
The Supervisors can direct the School Board to make budget cuts, but they cannot specify where to make them. Eighty-eight percent of the school budget has been devoted to salaries and benefits.
"Luckily it is a straw vote," Geurin said. "I hope they will reconsider."
The Supervisors are scheduled to make a final vote on the total county budget April 5. The School Board is slated to consider cuts April 12.