Local Commentary

Editorial: Richest Jurisdiction In the Nation

It may be an unavoidable aspect of human nature that, no matter what the material conditions of one’s life and surroundings, it is always perceived as confined by unwanted boundaries, real or imagined. Thus, those who are filthy rich, for example, behave as if they still need to pad their wealth to ensure their security, often honestly anxious about being able to hold onto whatever they’ve got.

They say only the truly poor are relieved of the curse of the obsessive desire to posses material things, but even that often proves not to be the case.

So, dearest Falls Church, no wonder you feel pressed upon and distressed by the costs of good government and good schools, even though you are the wealthiest jurisdiction in the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet.

Forbes magazine’s pronouncement of Falls Church as the “richest jurisdiction in America” this month stands in stark contrast to the stubborn, grudging reluctance of many citizens, and some on our City Council, to grant the School Board what it has requested to maintain its first-rate standing. That’s despite the School Board’s willingness to bend over backwards to present a budget that, despite enrollment growth, seeks not a penny more than last year.

While we wonder if the School Board did not go too far to appease the Scrooges in the City with its modest request, we have to trust their long-established proud legacy of standing up for their students and those entrusted to their care often against the winds of community stinginess.

This coming Monday night, when the Falls Church City Council makes its final decisions on the upcoming Fiscal Year 2012 budget commencing July 1, we are cautiously optimistic that the Schools will get what they’ve asked for.

But that leaves the unhappy situation faced by the City’s employees, from its police to its maintenance workers to its City Hall personnel. For three years in a row, they’ve had their salaries frozen, while absorbing greater burdens in their jobs by an 11 percent reduction in the overall size of the workforce.

This year, they’re being hit with huge cuts to their take home pay in the form of far greater obligations for their pension and other retirement funds. Only howling from divergent quarters of the City’s work force, and the timely assertion from Richard Parker, the City’s human resources chief, alerted the Council to the potentially dire consequences of such a deep net salary cut.

Still, the Council’s unwillingness to offer a meaningful pay raise – but to substitute a one-time salary “offset” that won’t cover the gap, for many employees, of the net decline in take home pay – is a sad testament to the miserly priorities of those who inhabit the richest jurisdiction in the richest country in the world.
The proposed budget harbors hyper-conservative fiscal prejudices, elevating high fund balance ratios over kitchen tables, and they could result in unhappy, unintended consequences.