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Moser: No Underfunding of School Children Happening Here

By Connie Moser March 2, 2014 9:00 am

8 Comments

If you watched the BOCS on February 25, you may have seen the debate raging to set the advertised tax rate for the 2015 fiscal year.

I spoke at the afternoon session, not wanting to be involved in the likely long evening session during citizens’ time. There was a lot of heartfelt commentary from citizens ranging from the PWC Arts Council who joined forces with many other non-profits, like ACTS and Habitat to show the connectivity and importance of the wide range of services and necessity for access to all in our community.

Many local coaches and a few players showed up to ask the county to fund lacrosse, baseball and soccer, although I didn’t hear anyone asking for assistance with basketball or cheerleading. Prince William County hosts a page on the web with contact information for all sports leagues in the county, so if you’d like contact information, it’s all available here.

There were a lot of teachers and educators there, too. There was an impressive assembly of a group dedicated to smaller class sizes who have developed a healthy Facebook team of over 1000 people in a very short amount of time.

I noted a couple of things I want to share with you.

1. The majority of folks who spoke believed that requesting the current tax rate remain the same meant there would be no increase in their taxes. That is not correct. Housing appraisals have increased, so even if you have a lower tax rate, you will likely have a tax increase. Particularly hard hit will be the lower valued homeowners who have regained some of their lost value this season.

2. There seemed to be widespread misunderstanding regarding the allocation of funds to the school system.

Prince William County Public Schools receive nearly 50% of the budget. Many people believe we need to increase the amount of funding we give to schools, but I operate under “fuzzy math”: There are approximately 85,000 students in Prince William County. That’s about 25% of the total population. Census statistics from community survey in 2009 indicated the percentage of population under 18 years old is 30%.

Out of the total county budget, not only is almost 50% allocated to education, but all the remaining services would also allocate 30% of their budgets to children based on the population percentage. Some might be higher, like Parks and Recreation and some might be lower, like economic development, but just for argument’s sake, let’s say it averages 30%.

That would mean that nearly 80% of all taxes paid by Prince William County residents is dedicated to children in some way. I’m not complaining about that, but I am saying I don’t think we are underfunding our children or their education.

I do think there needs to be some reining in of the way that money is spent. I am very concerned about the debt accumulated, debt service and the need to invest in renovations for older schools in our communities.

So if you want some real solid figures as opposed to my fuzzy math, read this Derecho post and have a look at the photo to see how funding is allocated in the budget.  

Allocations

Allocations

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  • PWC1

    PWC Public Schools get 57% from County plus additional funding from State and Federal.

  • http://neabscoactionalliance.org connie

    PWC1, I thought that, too, but at least from the general fund, it is only 49%. That chart came from PWC.

  • Vinny

    Great article Connie, but I disagree with a lot of the premise. You can’t compare our tax rates to any of our northern neighbors and get a meaningful conclusion on whether we collect too much or too little residential property tax. Their tax base is balanced by business and commercial property in a way that ours is not. Additionally, the county can control the type of residential projects it approves, which will determine initial home value, but after an area develops, it is the national and regional market that mostly determines value increases or decreases. Good schools are one of the factors that we do have control over that can increase value. If we don’t value adequate funding for our schools, everyone pays the price. Although the school board and administration has made some questionable choices lately, I still believe that the school system has been underfunded for quite some time now.

  • http://neabscoactionalliance.org connie

    Well, Vinny…that’s why it’s called opinion! LoL
    Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment.

  • Scott

    I’ll have to doublecheck but I think the Citizens Guide to the Budget that I got Saturday showed a higher allocation. And that was the simplified version the county wants us to see.

    And I’d go further than saying the decisions were questionable. They were flat out wrong. I do NOT support any plans by the school board to ask for more funding for smaller classrooms while they WASTE money on nice to have things before focusing on class size.

    The only way I’ll agree is if the entire school board and administration will publicly admit they were clueless to problem of class size.

    • http://neabscoactionalliance.org connie

      Scott…pretty sure that’s not going to happen! LoL

  • Shannon

    To clarify:
    PWCS gets 56.75% of the General revenue to Prince William County, which includes real estate taxes but doesn’t include agency revenue. If you include agency revenue, PWCS gets about 48.9% of the county’s total General Fund Budget.

    Unlike other government services, the education system cannot (and should not) turn away customers. The fact that the percentage of funding has stayed the same for 15 years (since 1998) but population has increased by 53% from 2010 to 2013 is the reason the schools are underfunded.

    In 2000, we had 280,813 people in this county with 92,668 people under the age of 19, which is 33% of the population. At that time, each child would have received 0.000612% of the county’s General Revenue to pay for their education. (.5675/92,688) Source: census

    In 2013, we had 430,289 people in this county with 120,480 under the age of 18, which is 28%. At that time, each child would have received 0.000471% of the county’s General Revenue to pay for their education. (.5675/120,480) (source: census, a quick google search will get you there; I don’t want to publish a link because the comment may not get approved)

    The percentage of money spent per child has gone from 0.000612% of the General revenue to 0.000471% of the General revenue. This is a 77% drop in percentage of county funds per child. (0.000471/0.000612)

    This county is the 9th wealthiest county in the nation but has the largest class sizes in the state. I am appalled by the lack of local support for our education system. Additionally, the state has lowered its spending by 11% over the last decade.

    It is true that residential taxes bear the brunt of our school funding and that the BOCS needs to get more commercial development. However, when our schools are underfunded, companies look at that and then look elsewhere.

    I personally feel that investing in education is one of the most important and necessary services a government should offer. It is through education that people learn to support themselves. Free and quality public schools are the great equalizing vehicle for America. By cutting the spending to students, you cut the ability for them to learn practical and necessary skills, earn a better living, and later on become contributing members of society. I don’t have a problem with a large portion of the county budget going to the education system because that is one instance where the government can provide a better service at a cheaper cost than the private sector. I also think that the specialty programs are a good use of taxpayer money because they prepare students for careers in their field of choice. Students come out with certifications and skills that could get them a “real job” upon graduation or help them get into a better college if they choose.

    Prince William County Public schools spends less per child than any private school or large public school system within NOVA all the while maintaining quality services and programs. PWCS is extremely efficient, actually. (Source: Washington Area Boards of Education Report (search WABE report in Google))

    Prince William County Public Schools are woefully underfunded because of the stagnation of funding and the increase in population.

    I really feel like this article is misleading in its analysis.

    Sincerely,
    Shannon

    • http://neabscoactionalliance.org connie

      Hi Shannon,
      Thank you for your response and some very helpful information.

      This article is not intended to be an analysis…it’s (a mildly tongue in cheek) attempt to get people thinking outside their current zone. That’s why it’s opinion and not news :-)

      The Prince William Committee of 100 is hosting a forum on March 20, titled “Should Prince William County Retire Its Revenue Sharing Agreement with County Schools?” There will be speakers at a moderated forum, representing both sides of this issue. I encourage you to attend. Details are here:
      https://www.facebook.com/events/202383519971991/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

      or visit the PW Committee of 100 online: http://pwc100.org