Editorial: Our Schools: We Can Afford Them

March 6, 2013 6:55 PM3 comments

There was no reason given, or even hinted, why the majority on the Falls Church School Board voted to shave important dollars out of their Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones’ recommended budget for the coming fiscal year. That is, other than being simply a symbolic pliant gesture to those on the F.C. City Council that will have the final say about how much they will or won’t let the schools have.

It is especially curious given that no one really thinks the Council will rubber stamp the 12.9 percent increase in funding that the School Board voted 5-2 to request. Since they’re not going to approve a 12.9 percent increase, then why should the School Board not forward a budget, at a 14.1 percent increase, that the Schools actually need. The increase would be even higher than that if some important programs the Superintendent decided not to fund were included.

There is a lot of feistiness on the current F.C. School Board, and time was spent at their Tuesday meeting this week rehearsing the credible arguments board members will be challenged to present as the overall city-schools budget now faces seven weeks of intense scrutiny and testing before a final City Council vote on April 22.

But the point was well made that all this will play out with Council and School Board members, alike, unaware of how much the citizens of Falls Church, according to the U.S. Census on balance the wealthiest in the nation, are willing to pay.

Those who show up at public hearings and town halls tend to be the same, noisiest citizens who usually howl the most about high taxes. Such occasions should be valuable for harvesting good new insights and ideas from citizens, but not at all to function as some kind of straw poll of wider sentiment.

There are ultimately two ways to gauge that wider sentiment accurately. The first is conduct a serious poll that reaches beyond the filter of noisy activists. Actually, that would not be all that hard to do, assuming a polling firm could be contracted that is truly impartial with an ability to ask carefully-crafted objective questions. In such polls, the outcome is always a function of how the questions are asked.

The second way is to measure public sentiment through the electoral process. In other words, if the Council raised taxes too much this year, then let the outcome of November City Council and School Board elections reflect that.

It is true that no one likes to have to pay taxes. But anyone not an imbecile knows that their taxes pay for services they receive in exchange, and in that way just as their money goes to pay for things that don’t directly impact them, such as our national defense, so they should pay for the future prosperity and security of their nation by ensuring the next generation is well educated.

Can Falls Church afford to pay for top-quality schools? Why not find out?

  • FallsChurchCitizen

    Falls Church can absolutely afford to pay for top-quality schools…to do so, it’s imperative that taxpayer money not be wasted on taxpayer-subsidized housing initiatives and other social engineering nonsense that isn’t in line with the Council’s fiduciary duty to its citizens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Smith/100002309640996 Mike Smith

    Of course the Little City needs top-quality schools. It also needs top-quality police, fire protection, roads, stormwater control and you name it. But paying for it is the rub. With an increase such as what the Schools want, either the tax bills need to soar or everything but the Schools needs to be cut. No doubt there is waste to be cut (both Schools’ and City) but the real decision point is cutting things people want in order to pay for things other people want. Thoughts? This is an open book exam.

    • http://www.viget.com/about/team/bwilliams Brian W. Williams

      The challenge we face is that the soaring cost to schools is due almost entirely to student population, not waste. More students = more expense. We need to pay for it. In the short-term, that means higher taxes, unfortunately — we should not try to kick the can down the road (defer expenses) or under-fund the schools (avoid expenses . In the long-run, we should support higher density (more people and businesses) to widen the tax base. If we support the right kind of new development (with smaller units like the 2 major projects being considered right now, Harris Teeter and Tinner Hill) then over time our tax situation should balance out. Falls Church will be different, but it’ll be financially sustainable for the long-term. Opposing ANY increase in taxes or ANY new development, in my opinion, means risking the long-term viability of both our schools and our city.

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