As Virginia's fastest-growing school district expands, so do its expenses. School Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III recommended a $247.6 million operating budget Tuesday to the School Board, an increase of $43.9 million over the current budget.

Echoing campaign pledges by School Board candidates, Hatrick's proposed budget contains $17.6 million in raises and other incentives for teachers. He said he hopes to recruit and retain top instructors and prevent higher-paying Fairfax County from luring them away.

School officials said his proposal would raise every Loudoun teacher's salary 10 percent next year.

"During this year's election cycle, I, too, listened carefully to candidates for the School Board and the Board of Supervisors join those who were seeking state office in recognizing that we simply must be on par with our major competition in the marketplace," Hatrick said, "and our major competition in the marketplace is Fairfax County Public Schools."

The 2000-2001 Loudoun school budget request is 21.5 percent higher than the $203.7 million budget approved by the Board of Supervisors for this fiscal year. The spending increase would be nearly $40 million more than the $208.8 million Hatrick initially proposed for the current year.

The latest budget plan was unveiled at a School Board meeting during a half-hour presentation that elicited few comments from current board members or those scheduled to take office in January. Several budget hearings are scheduled during the next few months.

The 325-page budget document details all spending requests for the next two fiscal years. Among the new expenses for the first year: About $18 million would be used to staff and maintain new schools for Loudoun's burgeoning student population--including hiring teachers, guidance counselors and other school employees; buying textbooks and other supplies; and paying maintenance costs.

A smaller allocation--about $2 million--would be reserved for new or expanded instructional programs.

Hatrick said he wants to reduce the number of students assigned to each high school guidance counselor from 325 to 275. He also would introduce American Sign Language at middle and high schools; begin foreign language study in some elementary schools; and augment art instruction with money for pottery wheels and dark room equipment.

He also is proposing that high school classes be diminished from 26.6 students per classroom to 25.5. "I'd like to be suggesting further reductions in class size," Hatrick said, adding that he would like to have more money for instructional programs.

Nearly $3 million is budgeted for technology upgrades for schools and central administration. An additional $300,000 would boost school safety measures by adding security cameras in middle schools and school buses and supplying uniforms to bus drivers.

Hatrick also is asking for $600,000 to revamp the district's curriculum and expand remedial efforts for students who must take Virginia's controversial Standards of Learning exams.

Even though Hatrick is proposing large pay increases for teachers, he is also recommending lengthening their school year by seven days, from 193 to 200. The extra days, which many teachers have requested, would be for planning and parent conferences.

But Kelly Burk, the president of the Loudoun Education Association, said it would mean that Loudoun teachers would earn the same pay as their Fairfax counterparts but work seven more days.

Still, she said, "We're real excited about getting an equal [salary] scale to Fairfax." And she agreed with the superintendent, who said that the region's booming economy and a favorable political climate prompted him to request the upgrades.

"Now is the time to do it," she said.