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Not a tea party county: don’t go on the cheap

December 10th, 2012

CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP!!!!

Tuesday brings another board of county supervisors meeting and more red meat for the blogosphere.   The red meat lately has come from the supervisors budget time.

Remember last spring when Corey Stewart pretty much told us that if we were going to attract business we were going to have to have services that people wanted?  He actually mouthed the words that taxes might go up.  All that has been forsaken it appears and he is now back to Tea Party Mentality.

The problem with Tea Party Mentality is that Prince William County isn’t a poor county.  We are the 9th richest county in the nation and have the second largest school system in the state.  Our school system is suffering.  Teachers aren’t getting raises and the per pupil classroom ratio is the highest in the state.  There are rumblings now to “adjust” the amount of money given to the schools.  Currently the school system receives 56.75% of the revenue.  I certainly don’t think anyone intends to give the schools any more money.  That would be a first.  There are also rumblings about the BOCS having more input into the School Board budget.  I do not believe this is legal. If it is, it shouldn’t be.  Why have a school board then?

Continuing along  the cheap lines would be strong suggestions out of at least 2 supervisors to cut  the partnerships out of the budget.  Those eyeing the partnerships for a good head chopping are after the arts as well as those programs that help people.

The most vulnerable community partners programs are those that are not tied to grants or agreements.  Those tied to grants/agreements may require some review if commitments have already been made.

A few examples are straight funding are:

  • Homeless Shelter
  • FamilyLegal Services
  • Boys/Girls Club
  • Victim Support Sexual Assault
  • Battered Women
  • Rainbow Riding
  • literacy program
  • Red Cross

There are others.  Other candidates for the chopping block are all the arts.  Some of the support provided by the county really determines whether these groups will continue to exist.  The arts are what attract people to a community.  This area is what companies look at when determining relocation.  They want to bring their people to communities that champion the arts, have good library services and a top -notch school system.

I expect SERVE and ACTS are also on the block.  Do we really want to kill off programs that feed the hungry and provide shelter for those in need?

There is already talk of cutting back the number of county employees.  Seriously?  Have any of the supervisors gone and talked to the worker bees?  How much overtime to they have to put in?  Some people I know do the jobs of 2 people.

It is time to put away the tea party mentality for this county.  I don’t want to live in a  community that has been “ghetto-ized” by the county government and a small band of citizen activists who are …well…cheap.  These same people are often the ones you hear griping and grousing about bad neighbors and that the county is going to trash.  Well…you get what you pay for, folks.

It isn’t good to be the cheapest place in northern Virginia.  It attracts people you might not want in your community.  Investment in your community is one of the better places to spend your money.

Supervisors, don’t run on cheap.  You can’t do it with your car and you can’t do it with your county.  Get off the band wagon and stand up to those other supervisors who just want to go on the cheap.  Just say NO to a flat tax rate.


 

 

 

  1. BSinVA
    December 10th, 2012 at 07:58 | #1

    I worked for local governments for over 38 years. For all but the first 5 years, I was in positions that had a part in our budget preparations. In every one of those 33 years, our instructions were to cut our operating costs. We cut staff, used both sides of paper, sold test and laboratory equipment, walked to close-by meetings, stopped all vehicle use one day per week, car pooled to out of jurisdiction meetings, eliminated State and Federal mandated services, cut overtime assignments, reduced office floor space for staff, reduced our vehicle fleet, cut staff training, delayed cost of living salary adjustments for over 5 years, eliminated merit salary adjustments, down graded salary scales, and condensed the managerial and supervisory responsibilities. My point is that reducing costs has been going on for a long time. The current clarion call for cost reductions is mostly an appeal for voter support without any real need or real evaluations. At some point, we have to stop cutting for politics sake and have an honest non-partisan look at our service mandates, our essential non-mandated service needs, and our programs that are aimed at attracting and keeping our business partners.
    We then need to meet those revenues needs without listening to the luddites and their concerns about their own personal well being. The jurisdiction in which we live is our home as much as our house is. When it’s time to spend money on our houses, we do it. Same goes for our home jurisdictions.

  2. AndyH
    December 10th, 2012 at 08:29 | #3

    I think that it’s always appropriate to examine and attempt to reduce the spending of taxpayer monies. Having said that, there is some base level beyond which “bad things” start to happen: a lack of supervision or expertise. Where most localities go wrong when trying to do this stuff is that they attempt to cram this debate into the heat of the budget process. If you want structural reform in your budget, start the process the day after you pass your operating budget.

    As for PWC in particular, I think it’s very well run. Sure, it’s got warts but you guys have the willingness and vision to build a place worth living. I’m thankful you do, it makes Manassas a better place to live – only have to bike a couple of miles to get to 20-30 miles of bike trails!

  3. December 10th, 2012 at 08:50 | #4

    Cheers for both statements about local government. I use the county’s excellent library system, the Freedom Center, the Hylton Performing Arts Center and other amenities even though I live in the city, and I think they are important partnerships.

  4. December 10th, 2012 at 09:23 | #5

    City people do have a lot at stake. Who wants to be surrounded by the cheapest place in town?
    The City of Manassas has done a wonderful job of dressing up and making something special happen quite often. They have managed to capture the quaintness and charm of a small town with lots of options without spending a fortune or taxing their citizens to death. Keep up the good work, guys.

    We can always refine budgets. You can get a few less paper clips but you can’t postpone getting safety equipment for very long. I worry that the county will come up short and not have vital equipment or personnel to meet the demands of an increasingly urbanized community.

    What I also fear is Corey, in his new role (that may all change before the ink dries)as Mr. Cheap, will attempt to bully the other supervisors as he has done in the past into giving him his way. How does he bully the supervisors? Pretty much like he bullied the citizen from Gainesville over the sports fields. He berates them publically and calls them RINOs and liberals if history is any lesson.

    I sincerely hope that the remaining 6 stand up for the county integrity and continue on the path we are on. This is not the time to discontinue services and partnerships that have become the texture and tone of our community. I hope they stand up to any playground bullying techniques.

    While they are at it, I hope they will stand up FOR their staff, some of whom are being bullied on a daily basis in the blog court of a few anonymous loud-mouths.

    The supervisors need to ensure that programs like the Boys and Girls Club, ACTS, SERVE, etc remian intact. This is not the time to leave our most vulnerable members of the population hanging out to dry.

    Should the sequestration become a reality, we will deal with it.

  5. December 10th, 2012 at 09:43 | #6

    @BSinVA
    “At some point, we have to stop cutting for politics sake and have an honest non-partisan look at our service mandates, our essential non-mandated service needs, and our programs that are aimed at attracting and keeping our business partners.”

    Well said. Now we need to do that at the national level as well.

    However, Americans want their services. And they don’t want to pay for them. And politicians want votes. So, your taxes should go up. I agree. No more cutting taxes.

    Let’s get everybody on board. If you want services, expect to pay for them.

  6. BSinVA
    December 10th, 2012 at 09:48 | #7

    Term limits, term limits, term limits !!!!!

  7. Lyssa
    December 10th, 2012 at 10:21 | #9

    “Investment in your community is one of the better places to spend your money.”

    AMEN

  8. Steve Randolph
    December 10th, 2012 at 10:36 | #10

    http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/wb/317708

    Happy to learn Gov. McDonnell understands
    “Localities need more help, not less”.

  9. Ray Beverage
    December 10th, 2012 at 12:17 | #11

    Much of the discussion in PWC for the cuts are those that are “not mandated services”; hence the target primarily on just about everything within Human Services. There is very little at Federal, State or Local within Human Services that is mandated under law.

    That said, if the support programs were not within Human Services, the increased costs for other services would most likely increase. More calls to PD and FRS leading to arguement more full-time staff is needed; more institutions which is what we are trying to get away from; and on and on. Lots of supporting research to show it is more cost effective to support Home & Community-Based Services to reduce the higher costs if they are not there.

    The difficulty within Human Services is the continuing “stovepipe of services” mentality. As demands for services go up, departments think of adding new FTEs to meet the demands, instead of looking across the greater services network to see if there is a way to operate out of their particular silo.

    Alas, it still comes back to Human Services for the majority of programs/services are all discretionary vs. mandated services. Of course, to “soften” this, the CXO’s Oct. 4th presentation called them “choices”. Either way you call it, the need to work for the common good across the spectrum of services vs. staying in you silo will be the best approach.

  10. Steve Randolph
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:17 | #12

    http://scottsurovell.blogspot.com/

    Scroll down to the 11-12-2012 topic:
    “NOVA v. ROVA = Massachusetts v. Georgia”
    — some interesting insights on recent Virginia voting patterns.

    (Think this theory holds true for recent presidential elections, but not
    local and state contest – at least not in PWC and the two cities).

  11. middleman
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:22 | #13

    We need a hard look at the cost of housing development to the PWC taxpayer. We subsidize development in many areas, such as stormwater management, roads, schools, police and fire, etc. Yes, there are “proffer” contributions when properties are developed, but these don’t begin to cover the true costs of new development.

    …And PWC needs to get out of the road building business and MAKE Richmond live up to its responsibilities. The BOCS is majority Republican and the governor is Republican, why can’t they get this done?

    • December 10th, 2012 at 18:24 | #14

      @middleman

      You are right. Proffers barely scratch the surface. New developments cost the taxpayers a fortune. They are sure good for campaign contributions though.

  12. George S. Harris
    December 10th, 2012 at 18:05 | #15

    @Moon-howler
    I don’t really think it works for the governor; i.e., a one term governor never has to live with his/her mistakes. In a way they’re kinda like seagulls–they fly in, eat, squawk, crap all over the place and then leave.

    Also, I think you are wrong about the schools. If I understand correctly, the supervisors in the counties around us review and approve the school system budget. For all the things you might say about Pete Candland’s budget proposal, I think he really makes a good case for decoupling the school system from the automatic 56.75% of the county budget with no justification. What Pete points out is that this adds a 56.75% surcharge to everything the county buys; i.e., something that should cost just $10.00 winds up costing $15.675 or $15.68 because that much must be raised in taxes to cover the sharing agreement with the school system. As to the role of the School Board–well part of their job should be overseeing the preparation and justification of the school system budget BEFORE it is presented to the BOCS for review/adjustments/approval.

    BTW–I’m with you regarding the arts and those thing that provide for those who can’t provide for themselves. As to Corey–he doesn’t have the welfare of the citizens at heart; his record proves that, what Corey has at heart is Corey and that big White House in Richmond.

    As to Pete Candland–look no further than Al (Cut Out All Subsidies) Alborn. He wormed his way onto Candland’s budget committee and is whispering his conservative Libertarian male bovine merde in his ear.

    • December 10th, 2012 at 18:20 | #16

      @George

      I am never rarely wrong about the schools.

      No, the surrounding county supervisors don’t create budgets for the school boards. That is the job of local school board. Generally a superintendant makes up his or her budget and the local school board approves it based on the money they are getting from the supervisors.

      School boards have no taing authority in Virginia so they are dependent on Town councils and supervisors to raise the revenue.

      I have no idea what Pete Candland is saying and obvously neither does he. Right now he and his cheering squad are acting like newbies.

      Loudoun Counties pays out about 70% of its revenue for the school board. Prince William County is no where near a high roller in this area.

      Now, Prince William can allocate a percentage of its revenues and make the school board adjust or they can reinvent the wheel each year and come in and ask for a new amount.

  13. anonamouse
    December 10th, 2012 at 18:43 | #17

    I doubt the supervisors will uncouple the revenue share agreement. It puts the heat on them. Right now they can hand over the 56.75% and let the School Board sort it out. Then School Board takes the heat for the no raises, cuts in pay, high class sizes. And Corey gets to go on and on about the waste in the school system.

    If they undo revenue share than the school board will come to the BOCS with a much larger budget than 56% because they expect it to get cut. So the Superintendent would ask for Loudoun’s 70% and the BOCS will say they are asking for too much and give them 56-60% but all the sudden the high class sizes, no raises, etc. are on the BOCS backs.

    I think they will piss and moan about it but the truth is they enjoy the cover the automatic 56% provides. It allows them to pin the blame on someone else.

    As far as the budget, what Candland is suggesting is to give the schools 56% of the revenue PLUS $12 million extra so he can have his flat tax without the schools complaining about $12 million in cuts. on face value it appears he is trying to give the schools more without letting the county ramp up their spending. Pretty smart move to keep the teachers and parents from turning their vitriol on him.

    On the other hand, Chairman Stewart is suggesting that we just have a flat tax and force the schools to make the $12 million in cuts. They are already at peak class sizes so that $12 million would have to come from programs like specialty programs and bussing. That is when parents start to complain. It would mean little or no staff raises because they would still have to find the money to pay for the 2500-3500 new students coming into the county. So you would have furious parents and furious teachers which is not a combination that some BOCS members will be able to handle. Caddigan, Principi, Jenkins and May will have a hard time saying yes to those cuts. They have a softer spot for students and teachers. And Candland with his extra $12 million idea has already shown that he is unwilling to take that $12 million from schools this year.

    I suspect Chairman Stewart knows this flat tax with $12 million in school cuts will fail and is only parading this around to win LG support for how he tried to stick it to the schools.

    • December 10th, 2012 at 20:42 | #18

      Great analysis Anonymouse.

      Once again our county govt and school system get buffeted around by the political gimmick du jour. I hope Mrs. Caddigan steps up to the plate and calls out anyone who wants to decimate the school system further.

      Frankly, I am somewhat confused as to what Candland and his band of not so merry men are up to. I am not so sure those working on the budget slice and dice really have any idea what some of these Caommunity Partners do and what function they serve. Often the community partners can provide services much quicker and less costly than government.

      I don’t recall asking to have my governement services reduced.

  14. Wendy
    December 10th, 2012 at 19:09 | #19

    We’ve said it over and over again that Chm Stewart does not have PWC’s best interest in mind.

    I’m beginning to wonder if Covington, Nohe, Caddigan, Jenkins (sorry Mr Jenkins) May nor Principi do either. They have to stand up to Stewart and support an investment in this community. In both the county government and in the schools.

    • December 10th, 2012 at 20:44 | #20

      It really is time for the remaining 7 to stand up to the school yard bully.

      We are watching. I have no problem immortalizing him for throwing a fit.

  15. Janelle Anderson
    December 10th, 2012 at 19:32 | #21

    Moon, thank you for your post on this.

    Moon wrote:

    “Currently the school system receives 56.75% of the revenue. I certainly don’t think anyone intends to give the schools any more money.”

    Fairfax County does not have a revenue share agreement in place and yet they spend more per student that Prince William County does. What makes you think the schools would not get more money?

    • December 10th, 2012 at 20:56 | #22

      The coundty is free to give the schools more money any time they want to. The 56.75% is a guarantee. I consider it a minimum. To date, I have not seen any suggestion of pitching in more. Perhaps I wasn’t looking carefully.

      Fairfax spends more per pupil ($13,564) but…they also give the schools less than 56.75% of revenue, if I am not mistaken.

      No one in Northern VA has lower per pupil spending than Prince William County.

      If the BOCS would agree to say 60% of revenue, I sure would jump at it. However, if you listen to folks around the county, most are grousing about the 56.75% and feel it should be less.

  16. Wendy
    December 10th, 2012 at 19:46 | #23

    Fairfax County is leagues beyond PWC. They have services and a school system PWC can only dream of having. Sigh….

  17. Janelle Anderson
    December 10th, 2012 at 19:47 | #24

    Thanks Wendy.

  18. Wendy
    December 10th, 2012 at 19:51 | #25

    Arlington, VA Beach, Albemarle – all have revenue sharing agreements. Look what Stewarts done to County Public Safety and Human Services – you want him near the schools? The revenue share protects the schools.

  19. George S. Harris
    December 11th, 2012 at 19:07 | #26

    @ Moon #16: “No, the surrounding county supervisors don’t create budgets for the school boards. That is the job of local school board. Generally a superintendant makes up his or her budget and the local school board approves it based on the money they are getting from the supervisors.” I did NOT suggest the BOCS create the budget. What I DID say was: “If I understand correctly, the supervisors in the counties around us review and approve the school system budget.” If you re-read, you will see we are on the same page.

    If you stop and consider this whole thing about the the schools/school board having to submit a budget for approval, it might turn out that it takes less that 56.75%. The only way to find out might just be to try it. Get outside the box.

    I recommend you also re-read my explanation of the “surcharge” Pete Candland is talking about. It is very understandable–but you may have to take off your blinders. I am not sure I like everything he is saying since I sincerely believe he is parroting a lot of Al Alborn’s stuff.

    And BTW, Janelle Anderson works with Al Alborn on Pete’s budget committee and seems to hang on every word Al says. I wouldn’t quite call it “worship” but is is pretty damned close.

    As to Fairfax spending more on their students and yet it is not 56.75% of the revenue. Well, while I don’t have firm figures nor do I intend to spend the time to look them up, my gut tells me they have a greater revenue that PWC and while they may also probably have more students, it might just be that this could mean they spend less per student. ;-)

  20. George S. Harris
    December 11th, 2012 at 19:24 | #27

    Here is the school budget cycle for Fairfax County. Note–the School Board submits a budget to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for approval.

    January 6, 2011 Superintendent released FY 2012 Proposed Budget
    January 10 School Board conducted budget work session
    January 24 School Board held public hearing on budget
    January 31 School Board conducted budget work session
    February 3 School Board adopted FY 2012 Advertised Budget
    February 22 Fairfax County Executive released FY 2012 Advertised
    Budget Plan and County Board of Supervisors (BOS)
    advertised tax rate
    February 26 School Board Budget Forum
    March 29 School Board presented budget to County BOS
    March 29-31 County BOS held public hearings on budget
    April 12 County BOS FY 2012 Budget Mark-up – determined
    budget package and tax rate
    April 26 County BOS approved the FY 2012 Adopted County
    Budget, tax rate resolution, and transfer amount to
    schools
    May 2 School Board conducted budget work session
    May 12 School Board FY 2012 Approved Budget presented for
    new business
    May 16 School Board conducted budget work session
    May 17 School Board held public hearing on budget
    May 19 School Board conducted budget work session
    May 26 School Board adopted FY 2012 Approved Budget
    July 1 FY 2012 begins

  21. December 12th, 2012 at 18:47 | #28

    @George S. Harris

    George, I think Fairfax Schools might get more fed money than PWEA which would make up the discrepancy you mention.

    The Feds give impact aid to school systems that get hit heavy because of their location to where the federal jobs are. For instance, probably the school systems near NASA facilities get impact aid also.

    Fairfaxc would get lots more money than we would. (green cards handed out in schools on Sept. 30 are the impact aid cards)

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