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

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 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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