The School Board managed to reduce Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick’s proposed operating budget by more than $2 million late Thursday night. It voted to send a $709.5 million budget to the Board of Supervisors.
The board voted 5-3-1, with John Andrews (Potomac), Joseph Guzman (Sugarland Run) and Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) opposed and Priscilla Godfrey (Blue Ridge) absent.
Ohneiser voted against the budget because the superintendent and the School Board made no attempt to reduce class sizes.
"A lot of teachers in my neighborhood have the biggest classes and they’re the lowest paid," Ohneiser said.
Guzman, who voted against the budget, did so for different reasons.
"I think this budget is too large," he said. "I won’t support this budget primarily because we didn’t adjust the salaries in a significant way."
THE SCHOOL Board managed to reduce the budget over a series of work sessions throughout December and early January.
It did so by eliminating a number of support service initiatives including a $730,000 program to create a substitute custodian program, $23,000 to install panic buttons in all middle schools, as well as several support services positions including a computer specialist, a communications technician in safety and transportation and a support services account clerk.
In addition, the board made several adjustments to pupil services, including the elimination of a guidance specialist and an eligibility coordinator, which reduces the budget by more than $200,000.
The School Board saved an additional $200,000 by reducing staff development increases by approximately 20 percent.
Some members tried to further reduce the budget Thursday night, but no amendments were passed.
However, the board did approve a salary increase for the incoming School Board members. All the seats on the board are up for election in November.
TOM REED (At large) made a motion to increase the School Board’s salary by 100 percent. The School Board currently earns $12,000 a year.
That motion failed.
"A 100 percent increase?" J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) said. "I don’t think we run for office based upon the salary we earn. This is a community service. It’s not about the salaries."
Eventually a motion made by Andrews passed, which increases board members salaries to $20,000 and raises the chairman’s salary to $25,000.
The board voted 4-3-1-1, with Geurin, Smith, and Nuzacco opposed, Ohneiser abstaining and Godfrey absent.
"It’s a full-time job," Andrews said. "It’s 30 to 40 hours a week, every week."
"It has been awhile," chairman Robert F. DuPree (Dulles) said. "Out of fairness, we deserve to be compensated for the sacrifices we make."
HATRICK DESCRIBED this year’s budget process as one of "doom and gloom."
"It is troubling to me to have this kind of cloud hanging over us as the wealthiest county in America," Hatrick said. "I wish you didn’t have to do this."
The School Board also adopted the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for the next five years just before midnight Thursday.
"It is awful easy to take five years and look forward and criticize something we haven’t done yet because it’s not time to do it," Geurin said. "There’s not a thing on this list, not a thing that we do not need today or by the time these years roll around."
Both the operating budget and CIP will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for further scrutiny and public hearings as part of the county's overall fiscal year 2007-08 budget.