Local Commentary

Editorial: Why So Stubborn Vs. School Budget?

There seems to be an odd disconnect in the understanding of some on the Falls Church City Council concerning the Falls Church public’s disposition toward the City schools and their needs. Those arguing the hardest to oppose an extra $350,000 for the schools in the current annual budget deliberations above the 2 percent so-called “guidance” they were allotted in December claim to be doing so in the best interests of the City’s public.

Let us suggest that one point may provide some clarity. It seems that whenever the subject is government transparency, or community values and long-term plans, Falls Church voters and potential voters are referred to as “citizens” and “the public.” But whenever the subject turns to taxes and tax rates, they are suddenly referred to as “taxpayers,” instead. This could be contributing to the fuzzy thinking that says our citizens who voted overwhelmingly last November to absorb a $120 million debt to build a new high school would suddenly rise to their feet as taxpayers and angrily protest a $350,000 increase in the City’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget because it would result in a very modest increase in the tax rate.

This is just wrong. What is coming across from opponents to the Schools’ request on the Council is taking on a more punitive tone to the idea that the Schools should not dare to cross the “guidance” of the Council, than the idea that there are pretty solid needs for why the schools are asking for what they are. Who is violating whom? The perception that the Schools are taking advantage of the Council to ask for more than they should could be modified to show that their opponents are being unreasonably stubborn.

Anybody who wants to run for the City Council these days would not dare to posture as anti-school, and for good reason. The City’s extraordinary success in so many spheres the last two decades has been built on the solid foundation of having one of the most outstanding school districts in the U.S. So we are puzzled by the nit-picking over the $350,000 the Schools are seeking over their Council-mandated arbitrary “limit.”

The Schools have made it clear that their request for the smallest increase in many years (2.8 percent) is for only two things: 1. a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment which City Manager Wyatt Shields and School Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan agreed to in December, and 2. one additional psychologist for the otherwise underserved system. On the other hand, there are over $1,370,354 in needs identified by the Schools that are not included in their budget request in the interest of holding the line on costs.

In fact, we would think there are many in this community who would be quite justifiably unhappy with the fact that the School Board agreed to get along with as little as it has in the coming fiscal year.