Local Commentary

Editorial: Don’t Pit Schools Vs. Affordability

It is important not to pit the City of Falls Church’s pressing need for considerably more affordable housing against the budget request of the schools.

This is not an either-or, it is a both-and situation. Hopefully, something good is going to come out of Richmond in the next week that will relieve the pressure of the City’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget to cough up over a million dollars for WMATA, especially in an environment where WMATA services to the City have been diminished.

This should make it a lot easier for the Council to end its dispute over some $300,000 that the Falls Church City Public Schools have requested above the two percent-growth mandate imposed on them by the City Council in December. This will enable the system to allow its teachers and staff the same three percent cost-of-living increase that all the City’s employees will enjoy out of this budget.

It would also permit the Council to commit something more robust to its Affordable Housing Fund which now has a paltry sum of some $200,000, and to commit more resources to senior and low-income rent subsidies and tax relief.

We totally agree, and have editorialized about this for all our 27 years, that the City of Falls Church must not allow itself to become a gated community of the rich. This is bad for everyone, especially including the young people living here. Having a diverse and colorful community composed of persons of all stripes and sizes adds to everyone’s appreciation of the contributions that everyone can make, despite incomes or other factors, to the general good. This is very necessary.

But lip service to this objective and real action are two different things indeed. Even now there are those on the Council who would prefer to have developers pay for affordable housing by way of proffers for their requests for special exceptions, rather than allow the general community to pitch in with contributions from their real estate taxes, which makes an important moral point.

Falls Church will not effectively resist the trend toward becoming a gated community of the rich without a considerable effort. It remains to be seen who will spearhead that effort in the official corridors of power here.

In this context, it is also important to resist the temptation to view the school budget as some sort of subsidy for well-to-do families with children.
The effective education of the young is the primary responsibility of any worthy community of human beings. In Falls Church, we have been in the business of saving humanity for a long time, to which we contribute by our ability to nurture and educate tomorrow’s leaders. School is not a form of day care, it is the indispensable resource that we are blessed to have the opportunity to provide and pass onto the next generation.

It is a profound privilege provided by our free society to do this.