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Moser: Schools Need More Money; Where Should we Cut?

By Connie Moser March 23, 2014 9:00 am

10 Comments

I attended the Prince William Committee of 100 forum on March 20. The topic was the revenue share agreement between Prince William County and Prince William County Schools and the question was posed to a panel to determine if they thought the current revenue share was sufficient or if schools actually require more funding from the county.

The panel was composed of Gainesville District Supervisor, Pete Candland, the owner of intelligencecareers.com and many other job sites, Bill Golden, School Board Chairman Milt Johns, and teacher/student advocate from Bull Run Middle School, Riley O’Casey. Our moderator was David Kinsella, teacher and Vice-President of the Prince William Education Association.

Several themes permeated the event, including the high burden on the residential tax base and a need to examine the school budget (and the county budget) for more cost effective savings.

There was a wide range of questions from the audience spanning designated taxes, audits, budgets, teacher pay, overcrowded classrooms and lack of infrastructure maintaining pace with the influx of students.

Several things became apparent quickly: Nearly everyone believes Prince William County teachers need reasonable pay, almost all believe class sizes are too large and nearly all feel we need to do something to improve the situation.

I didn’t perceive any solution. Supervisor Candland made several attempts to move the discussion toward solutions, such as grant matching, but there were so many more questions and suggestions they outweighed the possibilities he proposed.

What really concerned me, though was the ability of the entire audience to glide right over the facts presented by Bill Golden. Golden made it painfully obvious the future of jobs is reduced pay and reduced work force. He had data to back up those claims. Having been familiar with the employment situation for 14 months, I don’t need the data to understand. We’re living it!

I am fairly confused about where we plan to get more revenue to give to schools. Let me try to dumb it down for those of us who cut economics class in high school.

Schools need more money. Schools get money from Prince William County. If Prince William County gives schools more money, the county budget is short. If the county budget is short, there are two ways to make up the short fall: Cut expenses or increase taxes.

So, I totally understand parents wanting pay raises for teachers and smaller class sizes for students. I absolutely agree we need improvements and maintenance at older school facilities. I just want to know what is it we should cut from the county budget to increase the amount we give to schools. Should we cut public safety? Should we trim public works? Should we reduce economic development? Should we stop funding parks and libraries? No?

Then that means increased taxes. I recently wrote about the many ways we pay tax to Prince William County. So if you assume Mr. Golden’s scenario is accurate, (I will tell you, he is a friend of mine and a fact checker) how is Prince William County going to collect more taxes when residents are making a reduced wage and have lower housing values? Have you ever heard the expression, “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip?” I’m feeling vegetarian!

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  • http://neabscoactionalliance.org Connie Moser

    Be sure to read Bill Golden’s remarks for the Prince William Committee of 100.
    http://pwcpolitics.com/2014/03/21/prince-william-virginia-education-schools-and-tax-revenue-sharing/

    Video will be available soon on youtube, Facebook and the C-100 web site (http://www.pwc100.org)

  • William Golden

    Thank you for pointing out that it is all about our economy and priorities.

    One of the things that I plan to do in the week ahead is to look at those school districts of approximate equal size to our own and to review their financing and tax base.

    We live in a region of wealth, almost double that of what the average American experiences in their daily life.

    Will investigate the challenges and success of those districts.

  • Al Alborn

    Good column Connie. Bill Golden provided the most important “dots” in this puzzle: an assessment if the future of PWC’s economy. Unfortunately, no one was interested in connecting them.d

    • http://neabscoactionalliance.org Connie Moser

      I think it’s human nature to focus on what we know as opposed to what we don’t want to know, don’t you, Al? :-)

      • Al Alborn

        Everything is a math problem. Folks always avoid the math, that’s how we got into this mess.

  • darkprime

    The solution is increased revenue. After the housing bubble, our PWC taxes plummeted. After that, pretty much everything has been cut – schools, safety, parks, libraries, county services, everything. PWC should be proud of all the trimming it has done and has kept quality of services at a relatively good level. However, some problems that remained, such as keeping up with attrition in workforce or infrastructure were cans kicked down the road. Our taxes have not kept up with real inflation either. Even look at Ms. Moser’s property taxes she shared a week or two ago. She paid more during the housing boom than she does today, and she’s not the only one. I too still pay less than at the peak, even though I’ve seen gas increase, utilities increase, food really increase, and the cost of most goods increase. If your prices are going up, then your revenue needs to keep up too, or else you will go out of business. Surely our business friendly conservatives understand that your revenue needs to at least keep up with your bills.

  • http://neabscoactionalliance.org Connie Moser

    Please note this correction:
    Riley O’Casey is the current PWEA VP. David Kinsella was the previous VP.

  • Justin Corwin

    We won’t have lower housing values over the long term. Even if future workers make less the population growth and pwc’s closeness to dc will make it more expensive. I mean middle class wages have been falling for decades yet the prices keep increasing.

  • Justin Corwin

    The other issue is lots of folks told me to avoid pwc because the schools aren’t as good and the higher crime compared to fairfax. Improve those things and you can start stealing folks dropping 400000 on fixer upper town homes in fairfax. Pwc is a better deal but you need some of the stats to look more favorable.