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Proposed Four-Cent Tax Hike Matter of Perspective for Fairfax Residents

by Karen Goff April 6, 2016 at 10:00 am 25 Comments

FCPS School Board chair Pat Hynes speaks to supervisors on April 5Four cents means different things to different Fairfax County citizens and advocates.

For some, it’s another potential rise in property taxes by a county government set on wasteful spending. For others, it is the cheapest option to boost county coffers for the upcoming fiscal year — but not enough to fully fund Fairfax County Public Schools.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors heard from people on all sides of the issue (and many with speciality interests such as foreign language immersion programs, teacher raises and mental health services) on Tuesday at the first of three public hearings on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

The supervisors, who have advertised a tax rate hike of 4 cents per $100 of home value, will vote on the budget later this month. Hearings continue today and tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center.

Fairfax County Public Schools board chair Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill) said the county, which gives about half its $3.99 billion budget to the schools, and FCPS are still about $50 million apart in funding for 2017.

The supervisors put forth options to raise taxes 5 or 6 cents when it formulated the advertised tax rate last month. Those options did not pass.

“I urge you to fully fund Fairfax County Public Schools,” Hynes told the supervisors. She outlined some of the achievements of FCPS, including high test scores and national student awards in everything from science to the arts. She pointed out that the system is spending $1,000 less per pupil than it did in 2008 and teachers have not had a market-rate pay increase in five of the last seven years.

“After eight years, we have lost ground in teacher pay and class size,” she said. “That has taken a toll. We started this school year with 200 teacher vacancies. The class size at many elementary schools is more than 30. There are no cuts that would not fundamentally change this school system for the worst.”

“The school board is often accused of crying wolf,” she said in reference to Superintendent Karen Garza’s annual statement of tight financial straits. Garza predicted the $50 million shortfall a year ago, and engaged citizens and a budget task force in surveys and meetings asking where cuts could be made.

“We saw the writing on the wall last spring and realized we had to have a conversation about cuts,” said Hynes. “It is time to turn the corner.”

FCPS teacher Precious Crabtree made an emotional plea to the supervisors.

“I work three jobs,” to afford to live and work in Fairfax County, she told the supervisors. “We all deserve better than what you have proposed and will likely not provide. Your repeated pattern of behavior documents your lack of concern. … Your actions have pulled our system from top to the bottom in the DC area.”

County citizen Charles McAndrew told the supervisors that a four-cent rise, which will represent about a $303 increase in the tax bill for the typical county homeowner, is a rate that has grown much faster than inflation.

“We have had a 27-percent tax increase over the last four years,” he said. “Are you trying to drive people out of Fairfax County with high taxes?”

Another resident,  Lou Di Leonardo, was not as gentle with the board. Speaking at an earlier part of the supervisors meeting, a public hearing on the tax rate increase, he said the school board’s annual requests “border on extortion.”

“I not pay $400 a month (in taxes) to breathe Fairfax County air,” he said. “Taxes have risen 40 percent in the last few years [due to] the school board’s never-ending demands that border on extortion.”

Photo: FCPS School Board Chair Pay Hynes speaks to supervisors on April 5 to open 2017 budget hearings/Credit: County Channel 16.

  • rokidtoo

    You can buy a house in Detroit for $500. Why? Terrible schools, government services, and infrastructure.

    Property taxes are like home maintenance. Don’t make the required expenditures and your home value decreases.

    • Greg

      Ridiculous comparison. Taxes have increased here every year for decades. Spending cuts have been extremely rare, and there is still plenty of fluff and waste to cut. Why, for example, does the FCPS have a store-front adult education center in the Herndon K-Mart center? And mail its wasteful catalog to every household in the county several times a year?

      • Terpitude

        Yeah, they’re adults. Why do they need education? Rediculous!

      • rokidtoo

        “Ridiculous comparison.”

        Really? Are you from the Detroit area?

        • Greg

          Nope. Just wait — the tax-and-waste democrats here are taking lessons from Detroit.

          • rokidtoo

            Your idea of the good life: work and pay taxes.

            Fairfax county is one of the richest in the country. If your idea of the good life is minimal public services, crumbling infrastructure, and poor schools, there are thousands of jurisdictions that will meet your needs.

          • Greg

            Working and paying taxes, reasonable taxes that do not increase beyond one’s ability to pay them, are the good life. Do you not work? Or pay taxes?

            Astoundingly, we don’t have any of the horrors you imagine. As we stated, this is NOT Detroit and any such comparison is absurd. In 25 years, if the democrats stay in charge, perhaps.

            We do have ONE exposed sewer line that no one can seem to find ten grand to fix (despite annual increases in what we pay for sewer services), but we need tens of millions more, every year, for the schools. And let’s not forget that we need to move a Great Falls septage site at a cost of tens of millions of dollars — a site that has functioned for decades, but suddenly must be moved on the request of a few?

            Quite the contrary, we have a vast array, well-funded public services…so excessive, in fact, that we throw away thousands of brand new books. We have state-of the-art EMS and 911 systems. We have helicopters. We have a no-kill animal shelter with another on the way. We have more rental units for poor people than any other landlord in the county. We have a brand new government center for Hudgins. We have homeless shelters–we have EIGHT planetaria and, of course, a search and rescue team that we send to places far and wide to assist those in need. Fairfax County is the only Virginia jurisdiction that sends a lobbying TEAM to Richmond every year.

            Sadly, despite all of this excess and billions of dollars spent each year, we have a bloated school system that mediocrely educates many of our kids in ramshackle trailers and that wastes money. Lots of money. Our school system is not even in the top 25 despite decades of steep funding increases far, far in excess of inflation or salary increases of those burdened to pay the ever-increasing taxes for ever worsening schools. Clearly more money does not do good at FCPS.

          • rokidtoo

            “Sadly, despite all of this excess and billions of dollars spent each year, we have a bloated school system that mediocrely educates many of our kids in ramshackle trailers and that wastes money”

            The ever elusive waste, fraud, and abuse.

          • Greg

            The planetaria are unneeded waste. They are not elusive. Operating the largest school- bus system in the nation (with at least three other public transit systems) is waste. The buses are not elusive. Maintaining a sanctuary county and educating (and feeding) no fewer than 2000 undocumented children is what it is.

          • rokidtoo

            In your opinion.

            Pursuing policies that you disagree with is not waste, fraud, and abuse.

          • Greg

            These are neither “policies” nor “pursuits.” These are wasteful expenses on unneeded fluff that should be eliminated poste haste.

  • 68LibProgDem

    Thing is..if you want to have one of the best school systems in the country, and you want great public parks, and libraries..you have to pay for them. You have to pay for the upkeep. If the school system starts to look frayed around the edges, it will hurt our economy. I do question why we needed a palace for the FC government.

    • Greg

      We don’t have one of the best school systems in the country — proof positive that decades of tax and spend, over funding, far in excess of inflation, has failed.


      We don’t need the Taj Mahal. The county should sell that albatross, and the acres of polluting lawns surrounding it, put it on the tax rolls and rent some of the tens of thousands of vacant office space in the county for its needs. And we don’t need planetaria in the schools, or libraries that throw out thousands of brand new fully usable books — especially when we can’t get one exposed, leaky sewer line fixed. Detroit, watch out.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        I don’t agree with getting rid of the planetariums – but it would be great to replace county-owned lawns (the all-grass kind) with planted areas or natural meadows that don’t require nearly as many pesticides or herbicides or much watering.

        • Greg

          Eight planetaria are too many. Especially when the schools are not excelling at core fundamental skills. A tiny fraction of the school students may pursue careers in astronomy, but every one of them needs to read, write, prepare wholesome food, and file tax returns.

          Moreover, there are web-based and tablet-based apps (free) that do the star shows well and are always up to date, and, of course, we are 20 miles from world-class museums in the District. Take a walk out in the night and see the stars.

          If we have to keep a planetarium or two, get corporate sponsors to fund and maintain them or find some other creative way to fund the fluff. One more thing the county and schools do terribly is engage the many corporate entities located here to help fund the extras in the schools and the many cradle-to-grave services the county alleges that it must provided to all. We frequently hear NPR being sponsored by Fairfax County — it should be the other way around. We fund an entire website just for NPR: http://www.fairfaxcountyeda.org/power-of-ideas-channel

          And, yes, letting much of the monoturf revert to meadows and woodlands would save lots of money, fulfill some reforestation goals, greatly reduce pollution and fit well with the “cool counties” scheme.

    • Why do you bother?

      A palace? Have you been there? If the offices are anything like the community rooms – cheap, scratched-up laminate floors, tables that won’t stay level, bad, inadequate lighting – they’re hardly a palace.

      • Greg

        It’s a palace: So why shouldn’t the steps be paved with granite imported from Finland, and the lobby paneled with mahogany flown in from South America? The supervisors themselves were sure to stay lean and mean – working out in the new gym equipped with a sound system and state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

        • Nicki

          Just wanted to point out that the fitness center is not free to County employees. We do have to pay to use it.

    • Nyla J.

      Yes, but what happens when your top notch schools, programs and infrastructure are so inviting the county is flooded with new residents taxing the system without putting anything back in? Keep increasing taxes until the middle class can no longer keep up and move elsewhere?

    • Lisa

      The Gov Center is hardly a palace. It opened 24 years ago and has barely had even the minimum of maintenance done on it. Many of us are using furniture and chairs that came from other buildings before this one was built and the carpeting and systems furniture are falling apart after 24 years. Most people I know work in nicer work environments

      • Greg

        All the more proof that the county and its supervisors are abominably bad stewards of our tax dollars.

        Hopefully you will leave county government and find a better job in a nicer work environment.

        • Dentro

          HAHAHAHA. Nice office = waste of tax money! Aged office = waste of tax money!

          It’s okay. Trump’s gonna make America great again.

  • Ace

    People and employers are both doing more with less. I think the budget should be held to whatever is allowed by holding taxes steady this year.

    Every year FCPS demands more, more and more. If they were granted the full requested amount PLUS an extra $50 million they’d still want more and more and more, and claim it’s the end of the world if they don’t get it.

  • cRAzy

    OK, a four cent increase, BUT no increase for at least a decade in County spending and especially in the salaries of the School Board or the Board of Supervisors. With inflation as low as it is, these Boards ought to be able to figure out how to make offsetting cuts in spending of 1-2% per year.

  • wtwesq

    Fairfax County as Trump would say is going to hell. Horrible traffic, and schools and streets that are falling apart. Closer in Arlington has bike lanes, more parks, and better schools. Perhaps if Mr. Di Leonardo had attended a Fairfax County school years ago when they were still respectable, he could speak proper English.


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