Lack of controversy characterizes FY 2018 budget; part-time staff added for individual school board members.
The Loudoun County School Board unanimously approved a proposed $1.1 billion FY2018 school budget during a work session Feb. 2.
The board made several amendments before adopting the budget, reclassifying field hockey as a tier 1 sport, removing one budgeted transportation coordinator position, and adding aides for school board members.
The board voted 6-3 in favor of creating a one year pilot program to test having assistants working an average of 10 hours a week. Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) initially moved to establish a 20 hour a week staff positions, which chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) amended to 10 hours.
A longstanding point of contention has been whether school board members can effectively do their jobs without at least some dedicated staff support. Members of the Board of Supervisors have had budgets for such aides for more than two decades, starting with support for just the chairman. Now most have at least two, with at least one full-time. That kind of staff support is separate from any assistance provided to either body by the respective county administrative staffs. The new aides are intended to help school board members with email and other community correspondence and will attend work-related events when board members are tied up with school board meetings and work sessions.
“I believe we do need the support and I think 10 hours a week should be able to cover what we need,” Morse said.
Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) and Debbie Rose (Algonkian) opposed the motion.
Another, more debated amendment was to reduce the budgeted school psychologist positions from 15 — one for each high school — to 13. The amendment, originally proposed by Tom Marshall (Leesburg) was later rescinded after Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), Beth Huck (At Large), Joy Maloney (Broad Run), Hornberger, Morse and Sheridan voiced strong opposition.
“I do have very personal experience with that and I can tell you that having a professional in the school saved my child’s life,” Turgeon said. “We have had a horrible influx of mental health crises within our schools and I think it’s imperative we have a professional on hand to be able to address those needs because these needs are absolutely not anything that can wait even five minutes.”
Rose seconded Turgeon’s remarks saying counselors are overwhelmed and there needs to be more boots on the ground. Huck and Hornberger also commented on the increased need for mental health professionals within schools.
Before adopting the budget, Hornberger thanked LCPS staff for their work in crafting the budget, especially since this year, there was a small gap between what was proposed, the school board’s amendments and the gap between what the Board of Supervisors may be willing to fund. Morse echoed this.
“We have identified several weak areas and that’s our responsibility, to take care of those situations and allow the superintendent and his staff to handle the operations. I think the superintendent did a fabulous job with the staff, providing a needs-based budget,” Morse said.
“I think there are some improvements in there but I think those improvements were driven by the needs of the community — not wants, but needs: mental health, reading assistance, assistance with transportation, the pay scale adjustments. I feel very comfortable that we’re applying resources to the right areas, in the right amounts,” he said.
The board will present the proposed budget to the Board of Supervisors at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the LCPS administration building in Ashburn.