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School Board Presents Budget to Board of Supervisors

School Board Members Say Budget Responds to Growth

Loudoun County students from across the county decorated the Loudoun County Public School Administration Building's meeting room and filled its walls with music at a School Board meeting on Tuesday night.

Students from Freedom, Heritage and Loudoun Valley high schools, Harper Park Middle School and Legacy Elementary School represented Loudoun County's music and arts programs funded by the school budget.

March is "Music in Our Schools" and Youth Arts Month.

"There has been an effort over the last 47 years to try to promote art," School Board chairman Robert DuPree (Dulles) said.

DUPREE LED THE School Board's presentation of its adopted budget for fiscal year 2007 at a meeting with the Board of Supervisors Wednesday, March 8, in Leesburg.

Board members defended the $629.7 million budget at the meeting. The School Board asked the Board of Supervisors to fund $467.5 million, about 47 percent of the budget.

"This budget reflects the dramatic growth in our county and the commitment we have to our staff and employees," School Board vice chairman Thomas Reed (At-Large) 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.

Loudoun County's student population grew 7.6 percent this year.

Warren Geurin (Sterling) said the budget reacts to population growth.

"It meets the real education needs that our students, parents and communities face," Geurin said.

Geurin reminded the Board of Supervisors that families are continuing to move into developments they approved years and years ago.

"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.

WITH AN AVERAGE household tax increase of $841 this year, the Board of Supervisors reiterated the fact that cuts need to be made to both the school and county budgets on Wednesday.

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said he would look at reducing proposed salary increases to Loudoun County Public School teachers and staff.

Geurin disagreed with Burton's suggestion.

"The quality of the teachers in our schools affects every single aspect of our society and our communities," Geurin said. "So does our ability to hire new ones."

School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) criticized the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday night's School Board meeting.

"If you were a supervisor and voted for residential development, you voted for a tax increase," he said.

Ohneiser said the school budget needs to be funded in full to accommodate student population growth.

In response to residents who oppose the budget, "Learn about the budget before you take potshots at it because I'm not backing down," he said.

THE SCHOOL BOARD is requesting an increase of $60.4 million from the Board of Supervisors for the coming year, $3.5 million less than what was requested by the School Board and funded by the Board of Supervisors in 2005.

"We present to you a responsible and reasonable spending plan," Geurin said.

Board Of Supervisor's vice chairman Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said the $260 million Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) budget would be reduced.

School board member Joseph M. Guzman (Sugarland) expressed concerns over the reductions made to the CIP budget.

Under the School Board's adopted CIP budget, renovations would be made to Loudoun County's four oldest middle schools — Blue Ridge, Seneca Ridge, Simpson and Sterling.

These renovations are critical, Guzman said.

BOTH BOARDS stood by their decisions at Wednesday night's meeting. The Board of Supervisors stressed the importance of reducing the county and school budgets in response to recent tax increases.

DuPree was frustrated with the Board of Supervisors.

"The numbers are here. The budget is credible," DuPree said.

Geurin reminded the Board of Supervisors the School Board immediately lowered the budget once Loudoun County Public Schools received more than $22 million from the state.

"If our ESL [English as a Second Language] teachers can help our students overcome the language barriers they face and teach them English, if our special-education teachers can help our students overcome the handicaps they face and teach them life skills, if our regular-education teachers can continually help our students improve their academic achievement and prepare them for college or employment, then I know that we can overcome whatever difficulties you may have regarding our budget request