It’s been interesting to see how little political hay our all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors has so far been able to make out of its stunt of declaring in advance that they intend to whack the school budget in order to fund a tax cut.
The School Board has been growing increasingly outspoken and irritated by the Supervisors’ attempts to impose their arbitrary fiscal policy. Last fall the Supes ordered only two budget alternatives to be drawn up for next year: one would keep taxes constant, the other would reduce property taxes by an arbitrary 2 cents per $100 valuation. Neither would fund the actual cost of just keeping pace with the growing enrollment (2,400 additional students to be added to the rolls next year) and fixed costs of existing school programs. The result would be a shortfall of $40 to 80 million next year.
But the Republican tax-cut demagoguery that’s behind the Supervisors’ non-policy policy has gotten remarkably little traction. Most parents are much more concerned about maintaining the quality of the schools rather than getting a couple of hundred dollars knocked off their $6,000 tax bill — especially given that cuts to the school budget have already passed on hundreds of dollars in new costs directly to parents in the form of fees for sports, activities, etc.
The School Board, irked not only by the ass-backward way the Supervisors have worked up their budget, but also by Chairman Scott York’s constant bullying and intrusion on the School Board’s prerogatives— York recently demanded that the School Board offer a list of possible cuts for the Supervisors to consider, something that flatly violates the statutory responsibilities of the School Board under Virginia law — has been increasingly critical of York’s high handedness.
Meanwhile, parents turned out in force at this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting to call for fully funding the school budget, sending York & Co. into their usual phony-baloney defensive crouch. York insisted that just because a lot of people came out to support the schools doesn’t mean that there are not a lot of others (a silent majority?) on the other side. Also, the Supes blamed “misinformation” and “distortions” and “scare tactics” by the school supporters. Particularly amusing was Supervisor Janet Clarke ‘s (R-Blue Ridge) attempt to wiggle out of her idiotic assertion that there was no real point in giving teachers a raise because they would just have to give it back in higher taxes. This week she indignantly said this was just a “hypothetical” she was raising.
The bottom line is actually extremely simple. As even Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) has correctly and constantly pointed out, property taxes from new residential development in Loudoun pays for only 60 percent of the added costs of that growth, mainly schools. That means as long as the school population continues to grow (as it will into the foreseeable future, thanks to previous Republican controlled developer friendly Boards that never met a development project they didn’t like), the average property tax bill will have to increase just to keep pace with the growing student population. Period.
If the Supes can’t fathom this, then perhaps they’ll also need to include some extra funding in the school budget for adult remedial education math classes for nine very special Loudoun citizens.