It comes down to this on the eve of the final vote on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for the City operations and schools for the year beginning July 1: There is going to be a one-cent increase in the real estate tax rate, such that the schools will be funded at the diminished level they’d agreed upon, or, in order to retain no increase in the real estate tax rate, a $341,000 bite will be taken out of the core classroom services of the schools.
One cent on the tax rate is equal to about $360,000, but at this point, that one penny matters to an inordinate degree, because before the School Board came with its request to the City, it had in good faith pared down its request to the bare bones. Now, if the schools are denied that final $341,000, it will be at the cost of four teachers. On top of five positions already cut in this budget, it means the schools would go into the fall, faced with the prospect of more enrollment growth, with nine fewer teachers.
We lament the position of the City Council, which must choose between these two options (unless something new comes up between now and Monday). We know that no one on the Council wants to harm the schools, but that many are feeling the heat from citizens who are insistent on no tax rate increase, no matter what. It has caused some good Council members to turn their backs on the real human consequences of cutting the school budget, and instead to look at hard numbers, opting for the Solomonic proposal to even out a balance ledger by cutting the baby in two.
It is genuinely troubling to us to see good citizens, all trying to do the right thing, reduced to this. But there comes a time when a certain core moral fiber has to assert itself which insists that children, their minds, and their opportunities in life are sacrosanct obligations of government, and that they shall not be sacrificed by the threats of those who vow to run out of office anyone who proposes even a single penny more.
Don’t forget that this budget season began with a City Manager’s proposed budget calling for a four-cent tax rate increase. By this week, that number had been whittled down to one cent. But for some, even that is not enough. It’s no tax increase, even if now only nominal, or the threat of dreaded consequences.
That’s bullying, and there’s only one way to stop it: by ignoring it and doing the right thing.
Lest anyone forget, in Falls Church, with the highest household income in the entire U.S., when we tax, we tax the rich, not the poor. What makes being rich a virtue for Falls Church is dedicating its good fortune to a brighter future through education. Abandon that, and there is no virtue here, at all.