This is a “glass half full versus empty” gut check time for citizens of the City of Falls Church. Yes, a lot of money is going to need to be spent to bring all four of the K-12 schools in the City from the brink of crumbling. The condition of all of them is appalling, as data presented to the F.C. City Council Monday night showed. The pressures come only partly from the fact that the City has the fastest growing school enrollment growth in the commonwealth. The other part is the systematic underinvestment for decades that the system has suffered.
A couple of indicators were underscored in the town hall meeting at City Hall earlier this month. School Board vice chair Phil Reitinger told the audience that over $900,000 less is being asked for on a per-student basis in the current budget under consideration than a decade ago. There are also $1.7 million in unmet needs in the current budget, which some on the Council have indicated an intent to cut further by the date of the adoption of the final Fiscal Year 2018 budget in less than two weeks.
All this is dwarfed by the needs for upgrading and expanding the plant and equipment throughout the system which will be pricey, and even moreso if the City drags its feet as interest rates and construction costs begin to rise.
In fact, the state of the City is not that different than the state of the nation. Decades of fudging on maintenance of the national infrastructure is converging on a national disaster now with $3 trillion of investment being a low estimate of what is needed to keep bridges from starting to fall, outdated water delivery systems from failing and roads from collapsing into sinkholes.
In a frenzy of material pursuits and expectations, the American population has come to feel fully entitled to have it all without paying for it, encouraged by our modern institutions of greed and usury on Wall Street.
There are other factors in Falls Church, including Wall Street’s downright absurd insistence on maintaining a bloated fund balance (millions in taxpayer dollars sitting in a bank doing nothing), increased funding pressures from WMATA and the long-standing failure of the state to contribute a fair amount to the City’s schools and operations.
So now, behind the curtains, so to speak, the quiet desperation of inadequate school facilities is teeming. Fearing angry revolts by taxpayers, albeit constituting the wealthiest jurisdiction in America, our leaders for years have chiseled our children and their educators to the brink.
Work on our schools and other civic buildings are going to cost us because we’re having to play catch-up. Economic development lagged far too long before it slowly began to contribute just in the last decade. A lot more of it will be needed, despite pouting by the self-entitled. Taxes will need to rise too, and they should, probably by a lot.