He called the school’s principal, his Loudoun County School Board member, a state delegate. He set up a Facebook page. It turned out that the permit application to the Virginia Department of Transportation had been rejected in error. The decision was reversed, clearing the way for future parades in the Northern Virginia suburb northeast of Dulles International Airport.
“A victory,” Sziede said. “But only briefly.”
The parade,which would have taken place this week, was canceled again — this time because of a financial squeeze at the sheriff’s department. Potomac Falls, like two other Loudoun high schools, has at least temporarily abandoned the time-honored tradition of spectator-lined roads filled with floats and convertibles and costumes, a pastime falling victim to the economic times.
Elizabeth Noto, the first-year principal at Potomac Falls, said the scenario reminds her of the plot from the movie “Footloose,” where a town’s teenagers fight a dancing and music ban so they can hold their senior prom. “It kind of feels like the town is against the parade,” she said.
Whether the county likes the parade or not, money is at the root of the problem.
An all-Republican Board of Supervisors in the rapidly growing county has cut the tax rate and trimmed government programs in recent years.
The county sheriff’s department typically has covered the cost of providing deputies to cover special events at public schools, including parades. But this year, it asked the schools to pay.
Noto said the $1,200 price that was initially quoted for sheriff’s office staff to secure the parade would be a “huge chunk” of the budget for the school’s student council association, which funds the festivities.
Loudoun Sheriff Michael L. Chapman said his force is “spread very thin” and cannot spare staff to cover such events, so deputies must come in after-hours. He received sharp criticism from supervisors last year when his overtime budget was projected to run over by more than $2 million. But it later became clear that the issue was a symptom of broader funding concerns.
Such overruns have been common because the office is understaffed and the overtime budget has been steadily reduced, Chapman said. Most overtime funds are committed to covering holiday pay, and last year, the department was saddled with extreme weather and political events.
The supervisors ended up unfreezing vacancies to address some of the staffing concerns, but the overtime budget remains limited.
“It’s pretty tough times right now,” Chapman said.
Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said “better management” rather than “more money” should be the answer to the department’s problems.
He said parents have a long tradition of stepping in to support their public schools. But he emphasized that the sheriff’s department needs to give people enough notice that they have time to raise the funds necessary to keep events going.