Leonard: Increase in state aid is not enough

Posted: January 15, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The city’s public school division has seen a steady decline over the years in its ability to pay for the education of its students as determined by its Local Composite Index.

The LCI determines a school division’s ability to pay education costs fundamental to the state’s Standards of Quality and is used to determine state funding levels. The purpose of the LCI is to ensure less affluent localities are able to provide for their students.

The index is calculated using the locality’s true value of real property (weighted 50 percent), adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent) and taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent).

The higher the LCI, the more a division is expected to pay and the lesser the amount of state aid it receives.

The composite index ranges from .8000 (in which localities are expected to pay 80 percent of their education costs) to .1756 (localities only have to pay 17.56 percent). Those at the top of the spectrum include Alexandria, Bath and Fairfax City. Those below .2000 percent are Buena Vista, Scott and Lee.

Winchester’s LCI is .4374, meaning the division is expected to pay 43.74 percent of its basic education costs. In 2012-14, the division’s index was .4645. Prior to that, the division had an LCI of .5124.

The city is one of the 74 divisions that had its LCI drop. Fifty-two divisions increased, eight are still capped and one had no change.

Along with the state funding that comes from the index formula, Winchester is expected to get additional state aid due to an increase in its students (from 4,209 to 4,243).

But there is still a need for local resources.

“It’s still not enough dollars to fund a school division of high quality,” said Superintendent Rick Leonard. “We still need more money to operate, grow, increase compensation and address student achievement.”

Leonard said the formula is inaccurate and inadequate for divisions across the state.

Winchester’s composite index dropped due to a decrease in the true value of property of 9.33 percent. In comparison, the state average decreased only 2.79 percent.

Also, gross income increased only 5.24 percent, which was lower than the state average of 8.38 percent.

Retail sales increased 6.92 percent and was the only component higher than the state average of 3.80 percent.

The 2014-16 composite index was calculated using 2011 base-year data.

Comparatively, Frederick County has an LCI of .3718 and Clarke has an LCI of .5151. Both counties’ indices dipped in 2012-14 but rose again this year (2014-16).

The increase means that the counties’ wealth has gone up in relation to other localities in the state.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com