More school budget baloney from the Board

Our all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors, never one to let a fact get in the way of their efficient governance, has been growing more petulant lately owing to the fact that citizens are finally beginning to call them on their baloney regarding the school budget.

As we recall, our Board, in a highly efficient feat of governance, last fall arbitrarily set a proposed budget and tax rates for the coming year based not on any consideration of what the schools actually might need to keep pace with the relentless growth in student enrollment (2,400 additional students to be added to the rolls next year), but rather based solely on the Republican Purity Test of not raising taxes ever ever.

In recent weeks, large numbers of angry parents have been showing up for confrontational public meetings with the Supervisors to demand a halt to the mindless cutting of the school budget. And since these were well informed parents, they weren’t buying the baloney the Supervisors keep trying to shovel out.

Lacking imagination, our Board still tried to hold firmly to its practiced script, offering the same bogus and discredited assertions it has made over and over.

A sampling . . .

• Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run): “When I hear that we’re cutting education, it is just not true.” Well, actually, it is true. With a 3.4 percent increase in enrollment next year, plus adding in inflation and other rising fixed costs, the school budget needs to grow by 5 percent next year just to avoid cutting programs and the existing quality of education. The Board’s two proposed tax alternatives however result in either a miniscule 0.8 percent nominal increase or a 0.5 percent cut, leaving the budget either $67 million or $80 million short of the level needed just to maintain the existing level of programs.

• Williams again: “While it is true that a large portion of these budget increases was due to enrollment growth, the cost-per-pupil still rose from $11,014 to $11,638, a 5.7 percent increase.”

More baloney! Here’s the actual numbers of what the Republican Board of Supervisors has done to per-pupil expenditures since coming in to office:

2012–13 $11,595

2013–14 $11,638

2014–15 (proposed by the GOPs) $11,149 (est.)

So that makes a miniscule 0.4 increase the first year (not even enough to keep pace with rising fixed costs and inflation) and a 4.2 percent cut proposed for next year (or close to a 6 percent real cut, taking into account inflation).

•  Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin): “I don’t know where you want us to go with taxes. We already have the highest taxes in Virginia.”

Guess what . . . this is also . . . baloney, no matter how many times these guy say it! Here are the tax rates just for a few nearby jurisdictions:

Manassas Park City 1.65

Manassas City 1.393

Falls Church City 1.305

Prince William County 1.254

Loudoun County 1.205

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting yet again that Loudoun schools already have among the lowest per-pupil expenditures, by far, of any Washington-area school district:

Arlington County $18,880

Alexandria City $16,880

Falls Church City $16,991

Montgomery County $15,326

Fairfax County $13,472

Manassas City $11,984

Loudoun County $11,638

• And then Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), trying once again to ensure that she retains the coveted Dumbest Supervisor Award against a challenging field, came out with this bit of incisive analysis explaining why she doesn’t believe the schools really need any more money at all for long-delayed teacher raises: “When we gave an additional $66 million to the schools, and it was clearly outlined that they needed $31 million to open the three new schools, it was amazing how nobody on the schools’ side seemed to think about giving the teachers and other staff a raise out of the other $35 million.” It would actually be charitable to call this “baloney,” as that would imply that Ms. Volpe understands that this is nonsense. In fact, what it shows is that she hasn’t got the least clue about what’s actually in the school budget and hasn’t bothered to acquaint herself with the most elementary facts about it. The fact is that there was no “other $35 million,” as that all went to paying for additional new teachers and staff at existing schools, since, believe it or not, not all of the 2,500 new students added to the rolls in a single year all went to the three new schools opened that year. And as per-pupil expenditures were virtually unchanged from last year to this year, there wasn’t any money left for teacher raises or any other proposed enhancements (such as all-day kindergarten).

Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) capped it all off the other day by insisting that just because a bunch of people show up at a Board meeting to complain was no reason for the Board to question its own wise judgment: “Public hearings aren’t about who brings out the most people.” Of course, last year York was declaring the exact opposite, that the absence of  public turnout (after this Board had done its best to discourage public comment and input) was a sign that the Board was doing a great job.

So in the very special world of logic that Scott York inhabits, if nobody comes that means the Board is doing the right thing; if a lot of people come it doesn’t mean anything one way or the other.

So what would it take for York to believe that maybe the Board is not doing the right thing?

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