Newly-elected chairman Robert Dupree (Dulles) led the Loudoun County School Board in adopting the fiscal year 2007 operating budget at a School Board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10. Thomas Reed (At-Large) will serve as vice chairman. Heritage High School senior Kelly Haller served as the board's first student representative of the new year.
BEFORE THE adoption of the operating budget, the School Board voted on budget increases and reductions, beginning with teachers' salaries. School Board member John Andrews (Potomac) proposed to reduce the teachers' salary scale to 6.5 percent improvement of the fiscal year 2006 scale.
"That is a heck of a cut," said J. Warren Geurin (Sterling). "Teaching has become such an incredibly difficult profession these days. We have expectations. We strive for excellence. We think we have a climate for success, but we don't pay for it."
Sarah Smith (Leesburg) agreed.
"Things need to be cut, but I don't think we should start cutting from the teachers," Smith said. "I know how hard it is to keep teachers, and I know how hard it is to get them."
Joseph Guzman (Sugarland Run) said he agreed with Andrews. Money should be cut from salaries before programs and services, he said. "It is difficult to retract from other parts of the budget," he said.
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick said the School Board makes cuts to teachers' salaries every year, in order to get the Board of Supervisors' approval of the budget.
"It is time to say, 'Enough.' Now this budget needs to be fully funded," he said.
Andrews' amendment, a $5.8 million reduction to the operating budget, was passed 6-3, with Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run), Smith and Geurin in opposition.
Guzman made a motion to add 1 percent, or $888,000, to the classified salary scale.
The increase is a competitive, but not excessive one, Guzman said.
"It sends a strong message our classified staff," Guzman said. "We want to recruit the highest quality personnel."
DuPree agreed with Guzman.
"This is going to increase the budget by $800,000," he said. "We have to sell this to the Board of Supervisors. We have to protect it."
The motion was approved 9-0.
AT THE end of the meeting, the operating budget totaled $629,762,387. The School Board adopted the budget 8-1 with Smith in opposition.
With 7 percent student growth predicted for Loudoun County Public Schools next year, Priscilla Godfrey (Blue Ridge) said "every part of the budget can easily be justified."
Andrews said there are a lot of good things in the budget that will have a direct impact on the student population.
"We may be back here, but I don't know if the trim will be that much … when we are asking for less of an increase than we did last year," he said.
The Board of Supervisors and School Board will tentatively meet Jan. 31 to discuss the adopted budgets.
The Board of Supervisors will meet Jan. 17, to discuss what to do with the former Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) property.
"We have made a very strong board decision on that issue," Dupree said.