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School Funding Remains Top Issue Ahead of Tonight’s Budget Public Hearing

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Residents tonight will have their say on how and government and schools should be funded in the coming budget year in Prince William County.

The Board of County Supervisors at 7 p.m. will hold a public hearing inviting feedback on the fiscal year 2015 budget to take effect July 1. The $975.9 million budget would be funded by an advertised tax rate of $1.158 per every $100 of assessed value of homes in the county. Expected to be approved later this month, the budget will fund local government expenditures, parks, transportation efforts, and community services, just to name a few.

At that tax rate, the average residential tax bill for county homeowners would be $3,599, an increase of 5.4% over the previous year. The total automatic annual budget transfer from the local government to the county’s public school division would increase by $8.9 million to a total of $489.5 million.

Supporters of the advertised tax rate – which officials could choose to lower but cannot increase — say it will allow schools to lower the student to teacher ratio inside the county’s classrooms. Prince William has the highest such ratio in the Washington area.

“We believe this rate is a reasonable compromise of competing community interest, bill hosp. This rate will fully fund the school board budget request to reduce class sizes, improve safety, and more fairly compensate teachers and staff,” said Prince William Federation of Teachers spokesman Bill Hosp.

A $3.6 million plan that would have reduced class sizes at the kindergarten, 6th, and 9th grade levels was cut back to include only 6th graders after the county schools determined this year’s advertised tax rate wouldn’t be enough to fund reductions at all three grade levels. Superintendent Steven Walts moved monies from inside the school’s current budget to cover the cost of the reductions at the 6th grade level in the coming school year, a schools spokesman said.

Prince William County has the second lowest cost-per pupil in the region at $10,158 per student each year, $162; more per student than neighboring Stafford County spends, according to the Washington Area Boards of Education.

On the Board of Supervisors, Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland has been a outspoken opponent of the $1.158 tax rate. He’s continually called for a lower tax rate, and maintains the approval of a $10 million swimming and aquatics facility in the soon-to-be-built 12th high school is a sign the school division is not spending its money wisely.

Board Chairman Corey Stewart supports the rate tax rate because it will allow the county to fund more police officers, fire and rescue personnel, and pay for two new public libraries in which have been on the books for 20 years.

Tonight’s public hearing will take place inside the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Prince William County Government Center at 1 County Complex on Prince William Parkway.

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