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Budget Cuts

School Board Awaits Budget Cuts

What does a Mandarin Chinese pilot program have to do with junior varsity lacrosse?

They have a lot in common. Loudoun County Public Schools doesn’t have them, but they want them. Can they afford them?

Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick said not without proper funding.

In a non-binding vote in March, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to reduce the tax rate by 5 cents, reducing the local transfer to schools by $31.2 million.

Once the Board of Supervisors approves the budget, the School Board will decide how to spend taxpayers dollars.

IN RESPONSE to the Board of Supervisors' proposed $31.2 million reduction, Hatrick detailed budget cuts he thought were appropriate, not to dismantle current programs, in a March e-mail to School Board members.

The first items cut were new initiatives adding $2.6 million to last year’s budget. These new programs include junior varsity lacrosse, a Mandarin Chinese pilot program, a high-school guidance initiative and foreign language instruction in the sixth grade.

School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) reminded the Board of Supervisors that Loudoun County’s student population grew 7.6 percent this year. The county’s English as a Second Language student population grew 26 percent.

"Our reality in 2006 is that builders have built new homes, and developers and Realtors have sold them to families who are moving to Loudoun County in unprecedented numbers," Geurin said.

Hatrick made recommendations to increase the class sizes by one student in all of the county’s public schools and reduce all salary increases for school personnel by 2 percent.

At last month’s School Board meeting, School Board vice chairman Thomas Reed (At Large) commented on the $629.7 million school budget.

"This budget reflects the dramatic growth in our county and the commitment we have to our staff and employees," Reed said.

The budget reflects the value the School Board places on its staff and employees and they should be provided the correct wage to live and work in Loudoun County, he added.

Hatrick proposed to eliminate technology enhancements, principals’ requests for building maintenance, new custodians, paid sabbatical leave and the market adjustment for instructional supplies. He also proposed to reduce the increase in expected heating and electrical costs.

In his e-mail to the School Board, Hatrick said his 17 recommended cuts represent "everything new you hoped to do and moves class sizes in the wrong direction."

SCHOOL BOARD chairman Robert DuPree (Dulles) said the board spent a lot of time trying to convince the Board of Supervisors of the importance of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and operating budgets.

He is less concerned with the CIP budget than he is with the operating budget.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors, in a straw vote, approved plans to build a high school in Leesburg, an elementary school in South Riding Station and renovate Blue Ridge, Seneca Ridge, Simpson and Sterling middle schools.

The Board did not approve the construction of an advanced technology academy.

As for the operating budget, DuPree said he had a difficult time convincing the Board of Supervisors of the severity of the school system’s needs.

"We couldn’t even get five votes to get them to consider opening it up for discussion," he said.

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS is expected to approve the county and school budget Tuesday night in Leesburg.

School Board member Mark Nuzzaco (Catoctin) said he hopes the Board of Supervisors will vote differently at Tuesday night’s meeting.

"If they decide we can’t move forward, I hope we can stay put instead of taking a step backward," Nuzzaco said.

DuPree said he is a realist.

"I’m afraid that we’re not going to get the budget we deserve, that the students deserve. We will see what happens tonight," he said. "If we don’t get the funding, it will be a sad day for Loudoun public education."