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Candland Has Lost Confidence in School Board Spending Decisions

By Uriah Kiser February 10, 2014 9:30 pm

5 Comments

Publisher’s note: Peter Candland invited me to a cafe and offered his take on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and the upcoming budget season. He ordered a soda and I had coffee. Here’s a bit of our conversation.

In recent weeks, Peter Candland has lost more than he’s won – but that hasn’t kept him from trying to change what he calls a “good ol’ boy” system in Prince William County politics.

Now serving his third of a four-year term representing residents the of the Gainesville District on the Board of Supervisors, the Republican recently called for more transparency in local government, and for his Board to vote on key issues at night rather than in the afternoon so more people can leave work and attend public meetings and put in their two cents prior to the votes.

A recent set of six proposals outlining many of those ideas failed one by one. He’ll bring those same ideas back for a vote next year, he said.

More oversight on School Board spending

And, though it’s a done deal and will be built inside the county’s 12th high school, Candland maintains that building a $10 million swimming facility is a raw deal for taxpayers. Voted on by the Prince William County School Board in December, the decision to build the swimming pool has caused him to ask for more oversight on how the independently-elected county School Board spends their money.

Currently, Prince William County gives 57.23% of its entire budget to the school division – down from the 62% Candland previously lobbied for. According to him, giving more cash to the schools would have helped reduce Prince William County’s burgeoning class sizes by three students per classroom at each grade level.

The county has the highest class sizes in the Washington region.

Choosing to build the pools shows the school division is not committed to reducing the numbers, he said.

“My confidence in school board in spending money in right way has waned,’ said Candland. “I’m the taxing authority, and I’m the one that is going come to you and take more of your money, and am I going to want to take more of your money if I don’t have the confidence that you are going to spend it the right way?”

In a perfect world, Candland said he would do away with the revenue sharing agreement and find another way to fund schools.

Budget season

Currently operating on a $2 billion budget, county officials will begin heavy deliberations on the next year’s budget. Candland has called for an end to the “budget carryover” process where officials can choose to spend left over funds not spent during the calendar year.

He points to when officials in December approved $3 million in funding for sports fields, and spending $11 million from a contingency fund to pay for the burial of power lines along U.S. 1 in Woodbridge. He says those spending measures should have been tabled and discussed during the annual budget process.

“I think Chairman [Corey] Stewart likes to spend money. He’s a big government Republican. He believes that spending money is the answer to a lot of problems,” said Candland.

Candland and Stewart butt heads often while on the dias during the Tuesday afternoon sessions, regularly disagreeing on how local tax monies are spent.

Good ol’ boys?

Stewart in recent months has opted to spend more on county services to benefit residents, while Candland campaigned on promises to spend less and lower taxes. That idea of spending money for more services is something of a “good ol’ boy” system, said Candland.

“This spending mentality is part of an ‘old guard’ here on the Board in Prince William County, and that’s what I’m trying to change,” he said.

While his recent measures may have failed, it is not for a lack of his ability to build a consensus. An outspoken opponent of the Bi-County Parkway that would link Interstate 95 in Dumfries with Dulles Airport via the Manassas National Battlefield, Candland was successful in rallying the Board drop the project from its priorities list.

Budget shortfall

Last month, officials learned residential tax assessments grew much more than anticipated, but a low tax rate set in December to help guide the coming budget process would yield a significant budget shortfall in the county unless the county’s property tax rate was hiked. Commercial assessments also missed the mark and fell short of their 4% anticipated growth, netting only 3% growth for the year.

It comes after a typo led to a $5 million budget error last June.

Candland has been unusually quiet on this issue in light of the multiple budgeting mistakes.

“My job isn’t to necessarily embarrass the Board, or rub their face in everything…I’ve proposed several changes in closed session Board does not want to support,” said Candland.

 

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  • Reality Check

    When you have a limited budget available to spend, you simply have to prioritize.

    The School Board should be required to choose between putting more money into reducing class sizes and increasing the pay for classroom teachers who are currently overworked and underpaid versus spending $10 million on a pool and obligating more than 1 million a year for operations costs.

    The choices by the School Board would get them a flunking grade by any objective standard. But the metrics that are used to evaluate student performance clearly demonstrate by way of the SAT scores that our students are not as competitive with surrounding school jurisdictions kids in getting into top colleges in Virginia and around the country.

  • Potomac Clubber

    The good thing is that the schools are getting so bad that people with school age kids are starting to leave the county, so we won’t need to build anymore schools with pools in them.

  • Ed

    While talking about the “old boy network” is not going to win him any friends, we simply cannot keep on with business as usual.
    We need an honest look at spending priorities and then properly fund teachers and class size reduction.
    More oversight is definitely a step in the right direction; pity the naïve board members voted down Mr Trenum’s attempt to get the ball rolling.

    Speaking of good old boys, did you know that the new high school and aquatic center is in the school superintendent’s neighborhood?

  • http://PotomacLocal Phil Eastman

    There was a reference to the BiCounty Parkway and Mr. Candland in the article about school funding. The BiCounty Parkway has been discussed as long as I have been in PWC-36 years. Originally it was going (around North side of Battlefield and Gum Springs Rd.) to Dulles and Reston. The current proposal comes out all the way to Catharpin, then North- way West of Dulles and Reston. It will continue North, crossing the Potomac, in Eastern Frederick County, Maryland, and become the “Outer Beltway.” One would have to ask, why that route- apparently because some friends of the McDonald Administration had property way West of Dulles/Reston they wanted to develop.

  • The Godfather

    First I want to say to the person stating teachers are over worked and under paid. Hogwash! First of all every teacher knows what a teacher makes long before they obtain their degree in teaching so this was their decision. Secondly, where can you work and have the entire summer off? None that I know of. Thirdly, the state has to get away from standardized testing! The kids come out of public school dumb as rocks! Now all my kids, who are now grown, went to PWC schools. I was amazed that they had no basic skills because of this standardized testing junk! My daughter asked me “Dad, how do you fill out a checkbook?” I said you have got to be kidding me, they didn’t teach you that in school? She said no! She said everything we learned was geared towards a test. I showed her and it still, 8 years later, is same thing! I try to employ kids from Prince William County but their learning curve from high school is barely on a learning curve chart. Quit throwing money away participating in the Dumbing Down of our kids and get back to the basics, reading, writing, math, science, history. Concentrate on life skills as well. I can say I am a product of PWC schools over 38 years ago, when we graduated from high school we at least knew how to manage money, fill out a check book and knew what started WWII. We also had respect for our teachers and principals, this is certainly not the case now. Give the principal the ability to crack that behind when needed! This is not a failure on the kids part it’s a failure of our educators and the educational system! Quit throwing good money after bad!