Monthly Archives: November 2013

Our far-flung chairman

Our globe-trotting chairman of the all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors, Scott York (R-Often At Large), has received some no doubt unwelcome attention from the Washington Post this past weekend for his latest international fact-finding mission, reported here two weeks ago.

Joining York for his weeklong trip to Turkey October 25 to November 3 were Virginia’s outgoing transportation secretary and fellow big booster of  the developer-friendly “BiCounty Parkway” (aka Outer Beltway, Western Bypass, TriCounty Parkway etc etc) Sean Connaughton, Continue reading

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Fiscal cliff ahead for Loudoun schools

For the last five years,  enrollment in the Loudoun County Public Schools has grown by a whopping 25 percent.

The school budget has grown by only 11.6 percent — less than half of what was needed just to keep pace with the ever-increasing student population.

Last night the assistant superintendent for business and financial services, Leigh Burden, presented to the School Board the grim reality: the schools, he warned, will next year face “fiscal challenges not previously seen” if the all-Republican Board of Supervisors sticks with its arbitrary pronouncement that it wants to either hold the property tax rate flat in the coming year’s budget or reduce it by 2 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Basically, the flat option would leave the schools $69 million short; the 2 cent reduction would leave them $80 million short.

And, he basically said, don’t believe the baloney from Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) and others on the Board of Supervisors that the schools can close the gap simply by being more “efficient” and getting funding “down to the classroom.”

The schools will have to spend an extra $20 million next year just to hire the new teachers needed for the 2,375 additional students being added to the rolls. Operating the new schools built to accommodate the growing school population will add another $6.7 million. The school system is facing a non-negotiable increase of $11 million in what it will have to pay into the Virginia Retirement System, plus an $8.1 million increase in health care costs.

That doesn’t even count giving teachers a raise, something they haven’t had in five years.

And that’s even with by far the lowest per-pupil instructional cost ($11,638) of any comparable DC-area school districts, and the highest percentage of school employees (93.1 percent) based in the schools, versus administration and support.

A sensible policy, of course, would be to figure out what the schools need to operate and set tax rates accordingly. (A really sensible policy would have been to retain the slow-growth initiatives that were mocked, derided, blown up, and run roughshod over by previous Republican-controlled Boards, which declared them all to be infringements on our sacred “property rights”: that is, the “rights” of land speculators to sell off three-acre parcels and stick us with the bill). But this Board of Supervisors, eager to score political points with the right on cutting taxes, does it the other way around.

You can read the full statement from Assistant Superintendent Burden here (pdf file): FY15 Fiscal Challenges Memo

Another gift of the all-GOP Board: Private schools “by right”

Back in June, our highly efficient all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to begin the process of amending the county’s zoning ordinance to eliminate the annoying requirement that the public get to have a say — or even learn in advance — about where new public schools will be built.

Under the current zoning rules, a hearing before the Planning Commission is required. This makes simple sense, especially when it comes to building new schools in the more-rural parts of the county: a school can have a considerable impact on traffic, water use, and noise and light in areas not always well equipped to handle those impacts.

Keeping the site selection process in the open is also a deterrent to some of the dubious financial dealings and cozy relationships that have marked some previous land purchases in connection with Loudoun’s rapidly expanding public school system.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the bum’s rush: the Planning Commission last month balked at the supervisors’ idea of allowing new public schools to be built “by right” nearly everywhere in the county, and seemed inclined instead to retain the current requirement for a “special exception” hearing in each case.

However . . . don’t think that’s all there is to the story.

Tucked away in the supervisors’ October 16, 2013, report on its ongoing follow-up to its very exciting September 2012 “Strategic Planning Retreat” (our favorite bedtime reading), is a little passing mention of the fact that the supervisors are also planning to soon introduce a zoning ordinance amendment (“ZOAM”) that would similarly allow private schools to be built “by right” throughout the county. Continue reading

Loudoun’s rube-ocracy

We interrupt our usual flow of sarcastic humor for a few more-serious observations about the all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors and their extraordinary resolution, unanimously adopted this last week, “defending” the Washington Redskins’ racially offensive name against the forces of “political correctness run amok,” in the words of Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn).

On one level the resolution was simply fatuous, indignantly asserting the team’s “right” to “weigh customer input and take action in the best interest of the corporation with regard to their brand,” as if such a “right” were in question among anyone who has simply exercised their right of free speech to argue that it is offensive and outdated to continue using a racial slur as the name of a prominent professional sports franchise that is a prominent part of American life.

But on an even slightly deeper level the entire episode shows a degree of hyper-partisanship, insularity and small-town smugness, and a very disturbing set of values that this Board has brought into local government — elevating the interests of business and capital to almost sacred heights, while continually showing contempt for representative democracy. Continue reading

A new name for the Washington Redskins? How about the “Loudoun Neanderthals”?

How could anyone possibly be offended by this mascot?

How could anyone possibly be offended by this mascot?

With their usual keen and penetrating insight, our all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors has uncovered what’s really behind all the criticism of the Washington Redskins name. It is not, as you might think, that people could actually be upset that a professional football team has a name that is a racial slur.

No, what is really going on is a sinister attack on the very underpinnings of our free enterprise system! And, in the face of such a threat to the very wellspring of our freedoms, our Board is ever ready to respond with its usual stirring orations, specious analogies, and meaningless non-binding resolutions!

And, to take a courageous and daring stand in favor of sports in the process!

Continue reading