Chairman Johns and PWEA Pres. Livingston Respond to Advertised Tax Bill, Funding Cuts from Richmond

| February 27, 2013 | 0 Comments | News

Since Prince William Board of County Supervisors announced that the advertised tax rate would increase by 3.5 percent at most, and not the 4 percent as discussed Feb. 6, the School Division will now have to reformulate its budget.

Prince William County Schools announced that the advertised tax bill reduces school funds by $1.3 million.

“It is a little early to tell what the full impact will be,” said School Board Chairman At-large Milt Johns. “The Superintendent drafted our budget based on the supervisors’ guidance of a 4 percent increase.”

Johns said he recognizes that some would like tax increases to be higher and some prefer they be lower; however for the schools, it means looking at their budget and making some cuts.

“At a 3.5 percent increase in the tax bill, the county’s contribution to the school system will still increase more than the state’s contribution to the school system. However, it will be less revenue for the schools than we planned initially,” Johns said.

The Virginia General Assembly is considering eliminating the cost of competing funds they send to jurisdictions in Northern Virginia to fund teachers’ salaries. Northern Virginia has the highest cost of living in the state, and those funds have helped provide educators with a competitive salary that would allow them to live in jurisdictions where they work.

If the Delegates in the House have their way, Prince William County Schools could lose $7 million from its FY 14 budget funds.

Prince William relies on that state funding to maintain its rapidly growing school district. With approximately 2000 new students entering the system each year, new schools always need to be built. While some of that money comes from proffers offered by developers, they generally do not stretch far enough to pay for new educators, or technology for newly built schools.

“Our challenge continues to be growing by 2000 students or more every year, year after year. The less revenue the school system has, the less we can do to fix things like teacher compensation and class sizes,” Johns said.

Prince William Education Association President Jim Livingston took a clear stance that he is “disappointed with the actions of the Board of County Supervisors,” when they set the tax rate lower than the 4 percent increase requested by their staff and their previous Five Year Plan.

Livingston noted that fulfilling the 4 percent average tax bill increase is important to educators employed at Prince William County Schools.

“As I indicated in my remarks to the board yesterday,” said Livingston, “the Superintendent as well as the County Executive were directed to build their FY 14 budget proposals on the 4 percent average tax bill increase as provided within the adopted Five Year Plan.”

Now both the County Executive’s and Superintendent’s staffs must rework their budgets, and Livingston questions the logic in that.

“We question the mantra of efficient government when staffers at both the county and school division level spent countless man hours developing budgets based on a tax guidance some members of the Board of County Supervisors said they would not ultimately approve,” Livingston said.

Livingston also noted that there continues to be many variables to the school division budget equation, such as the status of Cost of Competing Funds, which have yet to be decided by the General Assembly.

“Failure to restore those funds could cost as much as $6 million, sequestration another $3 million, and now with a change in the county tax rate as much as $1.5 million in the next fiscal year alone and that assumes the BOCS will buck its own recent history and adopt the advertised rate,” Livingston said.

The long-term impact of the lower tax rate will be much greater over the course of the Five Year Plan.

“We continue to press our message of ‘Funds for Growth.’ Local revenues are simply not keeping pace with enrollment growth, thereby making it increasingly difficult to address issues like class sizes and competitive salaries, two issues which must be addressed with a long term strategy if we are going to maintain the quality of Prince William County Schools,” said Livingston.

© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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