Letters to the Editor: October 2 – 8, 2014
Not Convinced F.C. School Projects Are Satisfactory
I moved into the City of Falls Church in the late 1990s, dual income, no kids, lived here for around four years before my first child was born and paid taxes for a decade before a child of mine set foot in kindergarten at Mt. Daniel. Since moving into the City I’ve repeatedly seen bad decisions and misrepresentations regarding Falls Church City Public Schools – especially regarding school construction.
The City Council, School Board and Superintendent haven’t convinced me that the schools’ most recent construction projects adequately satisfy our current or future facility needs. Nor am I persuaded that they are acting rationally or fiscally or educationally responsible – in our children’s best interest.
Fifth graders are in trailers one year after completing the wing to bring fifth grade back to TJ. No one mentioned the plan included evicting the second graders from TJ restoring it to three grades immediately after a massive, expensive expansion so TJ would house four grades.
Mary Ellen Henderson has been closed because of sewage backups related to its construction. We desperately need a new George Mason structure. Even without seventh and eighth grade, size isn’t the issue. Mason is out of date and a new high school must be constructed. The Superintendent, School Board and Council are deafeningly silent about George Mason. When will it be done? How much will it cost?
Someone suggested tuition. The City has the highest local real estate tax rate. If you own land in the City, you’re paying tuition for Falls Church schools. You’re also paying for all children of non-taxpayers who attend our schools (e.g., renters). They free ride off City taxpayers. What percent of Falls Church City Public School students come from taxpaying households? How much higher is the tax rate to cover free-riders?
It’s time to stand up. I won’t rubber stamp school bond requests. Maybe it’s time for free-riders who don’t pay taxes to the City to contribute their fair share. I’m voting no.
Why New Modular Classrooms at TJ Elementary?
Why in heaven’s name were the outside modular classrooms at TJ Elementary School replaced with new modular units when a new wing was added to TJ itself (News-Press, Sept. 11-17)? Couldn’t the school board have added six classrooms to the new TJ addition and/or anticipated the need to provide contingency space in the new wing for enrollment growth?
Now we’re stuck for another 15 years looking at ugly modular units right on the street.
F.C. Should Wait Before Population Growth Push
Every year Falls Church’s Chief Financial Officer:
1) Projects a horrible fate if we do not increase population in the City of Falls Church
2) Explains away as a trick of budget timing the current budget surplus (or denies it exists through arcane accounting methods)
3) Consequently pushes for increases in the tax rates
4) Ignores that business and retail tax revenues are flat (might be attributed to the tax rates but let’s not look at that)
5) Pushes for more and more rapid approval of high density development.
No doubt he will be satisfied when we reach the population density of Manhattan.
The biggest fallacy in his reasoning is that more people equals more revenue. Actually, they equal more revenue and more expense. Given the current pace of increased density from already approved projects that are coming on line (it will be interesting to see if revenue meets projections), I recommend a modest pause in the push for growth – let’s say two years with no new population growth projects. With such a short period, it is almost impossible that there would be any significant economic issues and it would provide time to assess how well the current strategy is working.
Henry J. Gordon
School Laptops & F.C.’s Deficit Might Be Connected
Did anyone else notice how the two cover stories from the September 15 edition of the News-Press tied together? One article pointed out how Falls Church is facing a $2.1 million deficit for FY 16 while struggling with slowing revenue streams. The second article pointed out how Falls Church just spent (over three years) slightly over $1 million on laptops for all students at the Mason and Henderson schools. There might be a connection linking these two stories somewhere…
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