Local Commentary

Editorial: Can Teachers Get 3 Percent?

Things are looking up for the ability of the City of Falls Church to move ahead with its ambitious plans to build a new high school and renovate and expand its City Hall and public library pretty much all at once. The cost of doing this will be held down by such minor increases in the City’s operational budget and the School Board’s needs — each of which involves a modest three percent cost of living adjustment for all employees — that the impact on real estate taxes is actually in the negative, and only the cost of debt service for the $26 million the City will borrow this fiscal year will require around a two to 2.5 cent rate increase (per $100 of assessed real estate valuation).

This is assuming that the state will pick up the tab on the $50 million in new costs to subsidize WMATA’s upgrades to the Metro rail system, as it looks might happen, though too soon to say as of yet. That will be determined by what happens in Richmond in the next week, now that the legislature, as of yesterday, has reconvened. If that happens, it will eliminate a 2.5 cent add-on to the local real estate tax bill for City residents, which was recommended to prepare for a “worst case scenario” by City Manager Wyatt Shields last month. With the news, whatever it is, from Richmond due by the middle of next week, the Council will vote on the budget and tax rate on Monday, April 23.

But with all this potentially good news, the issue of whether or not the Schools will be able to give an across-the-board three percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to its employees, the way the same will be provided to City employees, remains unresolved. We hope a majority on the Council will ease up on this issue and give the teachers and staff that contribute so much to one of the finest school systems in America this very modest salary boost.

We honestly do not believe the citizenry of Falls Church feels as stingily about this as some on the Council have. That citizenry walked into the polling places last November and voted by a wide margin to approve the largest school bond in the City’s history, fully aware that they’d have to pay for it with their taxes.

The Falls Church Public School System is responsible for seven hours a day of 19 percent of the City’s residents, those in its schools. That’s a huge challenge and we’ve all benefited. For those who don’t directly have children in the system now, they’ve benefited from the “value added” of their housing and quality of life assets that a school system with such an outstanding reputation brings.

Frankly, it’s shameful that the Council should be hearing from teachers here about the pain and disappointment of having to live from paycheck to paycheck.