F.C. PTA Presidents Urge ‘Yes’ Referendum Vote
On behalf of all Falls Church City School PTAs, we unanimously support the November 4 referendum for Mt. Daniel Elementary. The $15.6 million expansion is sorely needed, long overdue and will help balance our schools’ populations.
Why do we need it? Simple: We are the fastest growing school district in Northern Virginia. Mt. Daniel is over capacity with the former library and music room operating out of a portion of a trailer and on a rolling cart, respectively. Space constraints in a shared gym/cafeteria will soon mean lunch beginning as early as 10:45 a.m.
This expansion will allow second grade to move to Mt. Daniel, creating a complete K-2 early childhood environment while freeing up nine classrooms at TJ.
This referendum will also fund critical safety and ADA compliance issues at Mt. Daniel. Did you know that 85 percent of the school lacks fire sprinklers?
If we choose not to expand, the schools will need to purchase trailers and/or begin one of several small additions. Trailers have a useful life of 15 years, while schools are built to last for 50. Thus, trailers would be replaced almost 3.5 times over the next five decades—a more expensive proposition than expanding Mt. Daniel as proposed!
Supporting the referendum is the right long-term financial choice and is in the best interest of the entire City, as our schools fuel our ever-increasing property values. Just last year, City homes increased in value by an average of seven percent.
Working with City Council, we believe the referendum can be funded responsibly, through creative use of water sale proceeds, developer proffers already dedicated for schools, and judicious consideration of a tax increase.
Trish Horowitz, Teri Tornell & Gabi Sandoz
F.C. City Schools PTA Presidents
City of F.C. Schools Are Unsustainable
Fact: The current Falls Church City school system is unsustainable! If you doubt this statement please, research the facts.
Numerous residents have written about this subject in the past several months. Their points have been based on data available in the public records. Other jurisdictions have faced this issue and some adjusted while others suffered the consequences of “1950s” thinking in the 21st Century. The leaders of our school system demonstrate they are “owed” anything they want for their “award” winning schools. Other school systems win awards as their faculty and parents care about their children as much as Falls Church’s parents and faculty. Be wary of the statistics cited by anyone (including mine) as they can be constructed to amplify the writers points.
We cannot compete in resources, salary or mobility with the larger school systems with an enrollment of 2,500 students. Our property taxes are already 20% higher than other areas and will only rise as the current school system continues with its self-absorbed methods. My research shows that several years ago the Falls Church City employees had layoffs while the school employees received a raise in pay?! The school exists because of the city not visa versa. If the school continues to devour a larger share of the pie then what happens to the rest of the city’s structure? City services continue to decrease as the school system demands increase. The leaders of the school system do not want to give up their “power/control” positions but in these changing and challenging times adjustments must be made! The property owners cannot be expected to continue to support a system that was based on discrimination, elitism and perhaps fear. Aware and progressive people see a problem developing and plan/organize actions so the option(s) are manageable rather than restrictive. Which road are we going to travel in Falls Church?
Where’s the Line on Level of City Debt?
Additional housing adds to Falls Church City tax revenue and that should be a good thing. But, consider, according to Tax-Rates.org, the City collects the highest property tax in Virginia, an average of $6,000 yearly, but we spend roughly $17,000 per City school student.
There are “second order effects” that have resulted from adding this housing inside Falls Church City and they were predictable: rising school enrollment and increased stormwater runoff. These issues might have been offset by charging developers a one-time fee when adding bedrooms and/or impervious surface. Instead, we elected to borrow $750 per resident for our desperately needed expansion to Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Then, we borrowed $1,100 per resident to address our stormwater runoff. Labeled “bonds,” these are real loans that we must repay – and we have only just started these repayment plans.
Currently, there is a proposal to borrow an additional $1,100 per resident for Mt. Daniel Elementary School expansion. Yes, we are overcrowded…the City decided that it would be so and we saw it coming. Should we feel that we truly have a vote or are we being held hostage? Where is the line to the level of debt that the City will recommend? What is the result if we fail to embrace the current recommendation to borrow more?
Congrats to St. James for Blue Ribbon Award
Congratulations to the students, faculty, staff and parents of Falls Church’s St. James Catholic School for their continued excellence in achieving the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School recognition for a second time. Amazing, St. James gets not one penny of our very high tax dollars!
When has the city public schools attained this honor?
Gail R. Opitz
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