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Candland Has Lost Confidence in School Board Spending Decisions

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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