School Board Chair: More Cuts Unfeasible
World-class public schools are a top priority in the Falls Church City Council’s vision and strategic plan. Yet, in a recent budget meeting, the city council has asked the school board about the impact of deeper reductions to the school board’s proposed FY11 budget. The reality is that such additional reductions could severely hinder the school system’s ability to deliver quality instruction.
The school board’s proposed FY11 budget is already more than $2 million less than the current year’s budget and reduces staffing by nearly eight full time positions, including support, instructional and administrative positions. This is in addition to approximately $700,000 and eight full time positions that the school board cut in FY09 and FY10 for a total reduction of approximately $2.7 million and 16 full time positions from the Falls Church City Public Schools in three years. Further cuts would severely compromise our ability to deliver quality instructional programs to our students and jeopardize our standing as one of the finest small school systems in the nation.
We need all citizens to voice their support for fully funded schools either in person or through letters and email to the city council. The public is invited to speak at a town hall meeting on the FY11 budget on Saturday, April 10 from 10 a.m. until noon at the Falls Church Community Center and at a public hearing on Monday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Chambers at City Hall.
Our school system’s reputation is the key reason many families choose to live here, why our property values are as high as they are and why many refer to our schools as the “crown jewel of our community.”
Ron Peppe, Chairman
Falls Church City School Board
F.C. Struggles With Sound Financial Policy
I was struck by the feckless intellectual logic of Mr. LaJeunesse’s commentary about Falls Church borrowing more money and spending it on the operating budget. He is essentially saying that the City needs to live on credit cards without a way of servicing that debt. His economic and budgetary thinking is so déjà vu subprime credit bubble and would only burden current and future residents of Falls Church with the same scenario that the U.S. Government is facing. The Council and staff of Falls Church are wrestling with excruciating decisions and they are both going about it in a constructive way. Mr. LaJeunesse is not.
While the City’s “paper” debt capacity is higher than we have borrowed, there is a major difference in the “ability to service that debt.” The corollary is a household with multiple credit cards and limits that in total exceed discretionary income and nearly total gross household income. Moreover, one finances long-term assets with long-term debt. If you have to borrow to finance daily operations, you are mortgaging your future to live high today.
The City set a 12% fund balance target because, in the world of fund accounting and Government Accounting Standards Board, the fund balance is used as a suspense account that temporarily funds the swings in City revenues and expenses. The limit is determined on the basis of our ability to service our debt with our small population base, narrow revenue streams and range of operating and capital commitments.
Our debt service currently stands at about 7.7% of revenues and will rise to 7.8% of revenues under the proposed budget because our revenues are declining. As a percentage of the City’s debt service, the schools account for 67.9% of that amount. Servicing higher levels of debt only robs operating capital from City services and the schools.
The City is trying to return to disciplined financial management so that it can weather shocks like the water transfer wrangle with Fairfax and the sales tax bookkeeping error in Richmond and provide essential services. It is trying to preserve its debt rating because a drop in the debt rating will drive up debt service costs in a major way. Mr. LaJeunesse labels this “fiscal conservatism that can be reversed.” Quite to the contrary, the Council is pursuing “fiscal realism” with a view toward the sustainability of Falls Church.
High Quality Way Of Life Doesn’t Come Cheap
The joint work session of the City Council, the School Board and the Planning Commission on Monday evening left me with whiplash: Suddenly the possibility of a 10-cent tax increase arose, with request to figure the impact of this on our schools, for example.
Our Falls Church way has been to assess our needs and ante up the funds. Thus we have award-winning Robotics Teams, and award-winning Odyssey of the Mind Teams. I don’t think you get that on the cheap.
Apparently I have the average real estate assessment. I can manage the $1.27 rate, or even the $1.30 rate. I choose to live in a community that supports the quality of life I treasure, and I expect to pay my share.
Let’s do it.
Vesta S. Downer
Why Don’t Businesses Help With Sidewalks?
I understand that the city is strapped for funds, but the main streets and sidewalks of Falls Church look horrible. They are covered with a nice mixture of dirt, sand, gravel and litter. West Broad Street really looks shabby.
Why don’t individual businesses and property owners show some community pride and responsibility and sweep up in front of their properties. I’m sure the owners of West and East Falls Plazas, as well as other property owners have personnel who can clean their respective areas at very little cost to them, and it can only help the image of their businesses.
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