State Sen. Charles L. Waddell and two delegates told Loudoun County officials last week that county schools have almost no chance of receiving additional aid from Richmond to help offset budget shortfalls next year.

Because the state's own budget prospects are worsening, and Loudoun is considered a relatively wealthy school system, the legislature is not going to wring its hands over Loudoun's schools, said Waddell (D-Loudoun).

Levying new taxes to raise money for Loudoun and other systems facing budget woes next year would be virtually impossible, he said.

"The situation is grim, indeed," Waddell said. "I expect we {Loudoun's legislative delegation} are going to have a rough time pleading our case."

Loudoun school officials expect a shortfall of about $11 million in a $100 million-plus budget because of $4 million in anticipated cuts in state aid and a sharp drop in local tax revenue.

County officials have known about the shortfall for months, but the assessment from Waddell and Dels. Linda M. Rollins (R-Leesburg) and Robert T. Andrews (R-McLean) at several meetings highlighted the school system's plight.

Andrews agreed with Waddell that the county shouldn't expect help from the legislature when it convenes in mid-January, "unless there is a miracle," he said. School officials plan to submit a final budget to county supervisors by the end of February.

The legislators' message came as the School Board and system officials contemplate measures once considered drastic, such as charging fees for books, changing class sizes and cutting certain programs. School officials cut $1.25 million from this year's operating budget because of the financial crunch, and a proposed $34 million high school slated for construction near Ashburn is now in doubt.

"It's a cascading effect," said School Board member Barbara B. D'Elia (Dulles). "The state is in terrible shape. The county is in terrible shape."

The legislators spoke first at a forum Nov. 26 with school and county officials. Sponsored by the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents, the meeting was billed as a chance for parents to raise their concerns about the school system's fiscal difficulties.

About 80 parents and residents at Simpson Middle School in Leesburg got a more acute message than expected when they asked about the effect on areas such as class sizes, which could grow next year to save money on teacher salaries.

"It's a matter of choices. It's as simple as that," said School Board member Edward J. Kiley (Mercer). "I don't know of anything in the budget that is not being looked at."

An organizer of the forum, Betsy Steinberger, said she came away with one strong impression: Parents and residents who value education in the county ought to get involved and let officials know quickly where they believe cuts should be made.

"This is a time when we're really going to have to step forward," she said. "This is probably one of the most important issues in this county."

Waddell, Rollins and Andrews met with school and county officials for talks the next day. Charles A. Bos, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said the bleak message was the same.

"There's little likelihood of any new state revenues," said Bos (D-Leesburg). "The problem is real, and it's probably going to be real for the next couple of years."