A statewide view of school budget cuts

Last week Governor Bob McDonnell announced intentions to “unfreeze” the Local Composite Index. To say this has some people worried, is an understatement as it will mean serious loss of funding for schools in certain parts of Virginia.

McDonnell is quoted is saying, “For nearly forty years, the Local Composite Index has been an impartial means by which to determine state and local responsibility for education funding in Virginia. The application of this Index has always been done in an objective manner, using the most recent fiscal data to most fairly apportion state resources.”

So what is that fiscal data? According to the Virginia Department of Education web site the Composite Index is calculated using three indicators of a locality’s ability-to-pay:

  • True value of real property (weighted 50 percent)
  • Adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent)
  • Taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent)

And then, as the VDOE explains it, “Each locality’s index is adjusted to maintain an overall statewide local share of 45 percent and an overall state share of 55 percent.”

Below is a locality-by-locality look at the projected impact of unfreezing the LCI. Localities in black expect an surplus while counties in red expect a loss. More interesting, perhaps, is how much each locality is expected to lose/gain. Hover over the image to see a scaled look at the loses and gains. “Redder” localities are losing more, while “blacker” localities are gaining more. White localities are gaining or losing very little.


Big gainers

The obvious winners are the three Northern Virginia counties. Combined, they can expect to see almost 120 million dollar gain. Overall 41 localities stand to gain money, with an average gain of $3,551,761.

Locality Gain
Fairfax County $61,807,753
Loudoun County $34,496,120
Prince William County $22,989,524

Big losers

Unfortunately, Richmond is one of the big losers along with Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Combined they can expect to lose over 37 million dollars. Overall 95 localities stand to lose money, with an average loss of -$1,226,079.

Locality Loss
Virginia Beach -$14,923,023
Richmond City -$11,172,537
Chesapeake -$11,086,597

Change across the state

The winners win big and the losers lose big, but everyone else stays pretty much the same — if losing a million bucks can be considered “the same.” Actually, to put that number into context, for the localities that lose money it is on average 3.24% of their budget for the 2010-11 year (although Northumberland, Middlesex, Albemarle, and Essex are all expected to lose over 10% of their budget).

  • As a measure of the amount of change a locality can expect (either up or down) here’s the average of the absolute values: $1,927,204
  • Without the top three gainers, the average of the absolute values is: $1,073,732
  • The median of the absolute values: $416,945.

The data are available as a public Google Docs spreadsheet. Have fun!

Special thanks to Ryan Nobles of NBC12 for using his dimples connections to help us get these numbers. And speaking of NBC12, if you’re interested in learning more about the LCI, check out their video footage of former state superintendent Bill Bosher putting it into layman’s terms.

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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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