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Votes

Board Cuts $19 Million From Budget

Technology Put on Hold

The School Board trimmed $19 million from its 2008 operating budget Thursday, April 19.

Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick presented the FY '08 staff recommended budget cuts to School Board members Thursday night that, he said, were in the best interest of the students.

The first item on the list, a 1 percent decrease in all employee salaries, resulted in $4 million reduction.

Staff also recommended reducing Stone Hill Middle School staffing based on the latest enrollment projections, eliminate staffing for MS-5, which was scheduled to open in fall 2008, but will not open until fall 2010, and reduce staffing for HS-3 due to its mid-year opening.

Staff cut $4 million from the $12.2 million budget for the refresh of instructional computers at 17 elementary schools, three middle schools and five high schools, including Park View Broad Run, Loudoun County, Loudoun Valley and Dominion high schools.

THE SCHOOL BOARD voted 9-0 in favor of the recommend budget cuts.

Only two board members, Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) and John Stevens (Potomac) motioned to amend next year’s budget.

Stevens, who serves on the School Board’s technology steering committee, motioned to fully fund the refresh of instructional computers in all middle schools, which costs $714,000. To fund the project, Stevens motioned to cut $550,000 worth of telephone-security camera equipment, $23,000 for panic buttons in all schools and a $179,000 after-school security program.

Stevens said he feared the security enhancements were knee-jerk reactions to the recent tragedies at schools across the country and "these computers are an inherent part of learning."

Hatrick said the Monday, April 16, shootings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., provided him with some perspective when making cuts to the FY '08 operating budget last week.

Stevens urged the School Board to reconsider the "urge to turn our schools into fortresses."

"I don’t think this turns our schools into fortresses," Hatrick said.

The superintendent said the security enhancements are necessary and no different than those measure taken at office buildings around the country.

The motion failed 1-8.

School Board chairman Robert F. DuPree (Dulles) voted in favor of the list, he said, because the School Board two priorities, maintaining class sizes and enhancing security measures, will be funded.

EVEN THOUGH J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) voted for the list, he described the process as a "distasteful, disheartening" one because of the Board of Supervisors' request to reduce the budget by $19 million. The Sterling representative said the School Board spent between 40 and 50 hours in December of last year trimming the budget before it was presented to the Board of Supervisors.

"It’s troubling we have to do this [again]," Geurin said. "This is the third, fourth, fifth year we’ve had to do this and I’m sick and tired of it."