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1999 Spring Bulletin

While the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board have been lamenting the stagnant values of residential property, little notice has been afforded to soaring commercial property values.

The result is that in the current fiscal year business real estate tax rates are up 8% and may increase another 10% in FY 2000.   Overall business taxes are fast approaching their previous high, which occurred in FY 1991.

When commercial property values increase, business owners have to pay higher taxes even though the supervisors do not raise tax rates.  This is perfect for the supervisors, who in an election year will claim that taxes did not increase when in fact taxes did increase.  What the supervisors should have done was reduce commercial real estate tax rates to compensate for the increase in property values.                               

By Arthur Purves                                                                       

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

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The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

The Police Helicopter:  noisy, expensive, ineffective?

(The following letter was received from a member of the FCTA who resides in the Mason District.  This letter summarizes communications the author has had with the Mason District Supervisor and the Fairfax County Police Department over the past three years.  The author has requested that his name not be given but you can send him an e-mail at
anzman@altavista.net with your comments.)


After studying the issue of late-night and early-morning police helicopter operations in the Mason District for almost three years, I have come to the conclusion that the Fairfax County police are operating their helicopters excessively in the Mason District during late-night and early-morning hours.  In many situations where the helicopter is used, the crimes committed are not serious enough to justify the disturbance, noise and anxiety created in the community.  The helicopter generally circles overhead at low altitude for 10 to 30 minutes.  It also appears that on occasion the police helicopter operates in the early morning hours without being called for a specific crime.  There are two main reasons for the excessive use of the police helicopter:  1) the criterion for its use is far too general and 2) there is virtually no civilian oversight of helicopter operations.  (Police Department policy simply states that the helicopter can be used "Öfor police emergency flights.")

There appears to be almost no civilian oversight of the police helicopters even though helicopter operations impact dramatically on the community and cost taxpayers approximately $2,000 for each flight.  I question whether the seriousness of some crimes for which the helicopter is called justifies the expense when a less costly squad car could answer the call.  I also believe that the police have engaged in a "use or lose" practice whereby they must justify the high cost of the helicopters by flying them even when the seriousness of the crimes does not warrant their use.

A good example of what has been occurring over the past three years is evidenced by six helicopter operations that took place in the Mason District beginning October 6, 1998 (note that five incidents occurred in a 30-day period):

  1. October 6  -  1:25 a.m.

  1. October 13  - 1:15 a.m.

  1. October 14  - 12:20 a.m.

  1. November 3  - 3:35 a.m.

  1. November 4  - 12:35 a.m. 

  1. December 7  - 12:55 a.m.

The police public relations department gave the following descriptions of these incidents:  two robberies, a peeping Tom, an abandoned vehicle, and a DWI suspect
. No report was filed for one incident.  It is interesting to note that for these six incidents the suspects had no weapons nor were any suspects apprehended.  I agree that the robberies would justify the use of the helicopter, but I don't think the other four incidents justify its use especially when the cost and the disruption to the community are considered.

I wholeheartedly support the police department in its effort to combat crime in the county and feel that they generally do a very good job - except for the use of the helicopters.  For this reason, I would like to see an impartial group of citizens take a hard look at the county's helicopter operations with an eye on the cost (in dollars and disruption to the community) versus the benefits to the taxpayers.  Until this is done, skeptics like myself will continue to feel that our tax dollars are not being wisely spent.

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The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

Tax Increases:  How are They Spent?

As this newsletter has repeatedly reported, during the late 70s and 80s, Fairfax County government and schools increased taxes and spending much faster than population growth and inflation.  These higher tax rates cost Fairfax County taxpayers about an extra $1 billion per year.

The accompanying pie chart shows how the proposed FY 2000 school system and county government budgets will spend the extra billion dollars

School salary increases (above the amount required to keep up with inflation and enrollment) account for 8 percent of the $1 billion.  As a result, the average school system salary in FY 2000 will be about $45,000 or 12 percent higher than in FY 1975. Please see chart entitled "Fairfax County Government and School System Salary Trends, FY 1975-2000.")   The average salary for county government workers will have increased 19% more than inflation.

Since 1975, average fringe benefits for school em

Employees have increased 400%, and will cost an extra $134 million this year.

Two thirds, or $660 million is spent not to increase employee salaries and benefits but on new and expanded programs.  Of this amount, schools get 42 percent or an extra $420 million and the county government gets an extra 26% or $260 million.

School increases have funded more administrators, more guidance counselors, more computers, and air-conditioning of all schools.  The extra taxes have also funded increasing the number of classes a middle or high school student takes per day from six to seven.  Another expense is the increase in Learning Disabled expenses, much of which may be due to the failure of the school system to use phonics-based reading instruction in the regular classroom.  Another major increase is the need for alternative programs for disruptive students.

The increase was not spent on needed school

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

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construction and renovation.  The result is that 14,000 students meet in 550 trailers.

In any case, the schools' extra $420 million
per year has not raised achievement.  The average SAT score for Fairfax County seniors is at the 65th percentile.  In the first year of Virginia's Standards of Learning Tests, 94% of Fairfax County public schools failed to meet the accreditation standard. 

In the case of the county government, even though it is receiving an extra $260 million, Fairfax County commuters face the second worst commute in the United States.  Almost none of the increase was spent on transportation.  Most of it has gone to public safety, health and welfare.

By Arthur Purves

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

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The Northern Virginia Hotline

How many Fairfax County citizens are aware that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has been granting tax money to support a Fairfax County telephone answering service for more than twenty years?  The Northern Virginia Hotline (NVHL), answering anonymous and sometimes obscene telephone calls, has cost county taxpayers an estimated one million dollars since its inception.   The NVHL program was intended to be an answering service for school children who could not talk to their parents and was started by a group of well intentioned volunteers who first received donations (not tax dollars) from local citizen groups (churches, businesses, etc.) in Arlington and Fairfax Counties.  That is until the NVHL managed to nestle a place in the Fairfax County Budget.

One volunteer who had been a listener of over ten years noted there was only one worthwhile call during that period.  It pertained to a young runaway girl.  She wanted to go back home but was afraid her mother would beat her. Throughout negotiations the distraught mother assured the listener that she wanted her daughter home and agreed to pay the taxi fare to get the girl home.

The NVHL's original expenses were for two telephones, a part time secretary, a typewriter and supplies.  It operated from a spare hospital room and from an empty office in Fort Myers.  It was an all volunteer organization from the director to the volunteer listeners.  After several years the calls and the community donations began to drop off.  It was then the Hotline staff finagled financial funding from Fairfax and Arlington Counties.  NVHL staff were so successful in getting taxpayer money that they began to pay the director a part time salary, added a third telephone for "administrative purposes" and still later hired a part time psychiatrist.  What started out to be a community program run on  donations has now expanded in 1998, to a $90,994 (FY 1998 Human Services Performance Budget p. x) a year taxpayer financed telephone answering service that provides the same service that was originally accomplished with community donations and volunteer personnel.

With eighty-seven (87) hotline & crisis telephone numbers, including the NVHL, listed in the Northern Virginia One Book Yellow Pages, there is little reason to continue to use taxpayer dollars to support this "volunteer" group.  If you are a Fairfax County taxpayer, call your Fairfax County supervisor and demand that funds to the NVHL be stopped.  The NVHL was a well meaning program that

should have died when volunteer funds from the local community dried up because of a lack of interest. 
Think of it.  $90,944 a year just to be one more out of a list of 87 "volunteer" organizations.

By Warren Hill

Know Your Customer

Back on February 24, 1999,  I spoke to a staff attorney with the FDIC and was informed that the "know your customer" rule would be sent back to the drawing board. 

In fact, bank regulators more recently have announced that they will be withdrawing the controversial "know your customer" rule after having been overwhelmed by complaints that the rule is a massive invasion of privacy.

Congratulations to those who took the time to make their concerns about the proposed "Know Your Customer" rule known.   

Because bad ideas never seem to die, but rather lie dormant  until  a later time when they can resurface while people's attentions are elsewhere,  we will likely have to turn to Congress for a legislative solution if we are to avoid having to fight another "know your customer"  proposal.

T Pfister

More Good News

The Supreme Court recently struck down an attempt by Colorado to regulate ballot initiatives.   The Washington Post, on January 13, 1999, p. A01,  quoted Dane Waters, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute,  praising the ruling as sending  "a clear message to state legislators that people do have the right to self-govern" and should not be deterred from participating in initiatives.

T Pfister

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance 

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Odds and Ends . . .                                                                                                       
The National Taxpayers Conference 1999, organized by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation and Iowans for Tax Relief, will be held 8:30 AM Friday, June 11, to 4:00 PM  Saturday, June 12, 1999, at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill Hotel in Washington, DC.  The conference cost will be $149/person (includes all conference entrance fees, materials, and lunch with prominent keynote speakers both days).  The cost will be $99/person without lunch.  Hotel accommodations are not included.  For more information you can call Mark Schmidt at (703) 683-5700 or go to the web site at http://www.ntu.org/conference.html


The dates for the Fairfax County FY 2000 Budget are:  Release of the Budget on February 22; Public Hearings on April 5,6,7; mark-up on April 19; and adoption on April 26.  For additional information please call the Fairfax County OMB at (703) 324-4089.  Arthur Purves, President of the FCTA, is scheduled to be speaker number 21 at the April 5th budget hearing.  Hearings are televised on Cable channel 16 from 7:30 PM.


The National Education Association has long proposed that home schooling be made illegal.  This position is difficult to reconcile with the purported  concern "for the children" that is so frequently used as justification for more taxpayer funds.  Consider the following:  Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute has done a study entitled "Strengths of Their Own:  Home Schoolers Across America" that is enlightening.  On average, home schoolers out-performed their public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points across all subjects.  While the NEA would love to see a requirement for teacher certification for parents who home school their children, test scores showed that home schooled children  who had at least one parent with teacher certification scored only three percentile points better than students with neither parent having certification.  In fact, home educated students' test scores remain between the 80th and 90th percentile, whether their mothers have a college degree or failed to complete high school.   While neither parent education level nor family income have a significant impact on achievement of home educated children, both education and income levels do significantly impact public school students.  Much is made of the minority achievement disparity found in public education; in reading, both white and minority home schoolers score at the 87th percentile while only five points separate them in math.  "A cost-benefit analysis reveals that an average of $546 spent per home school student per year yields an average 85th percentile ranking on test scores.  Compare this to the average annual expenditure of $5,325 per public school student to achieve only an average 50th percentile ranking.  These figures do not include capital expenditures, like buildings and land, etc."


The following information is from the "Liberator Online", March 4, 1999, Vol. 4, No. 5.  The "Liberator Online" is produced by the Libertarian Party.  "According to the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based public policy research organization, there has been an explosion of remedial education programs in government schools grades K-12.  An astonishing 36% of America's 45 million public school students are now taking remedial education classes, in reading, language arts, and/or math.  The number of teachers, aides, and support personnel involved now approaches the size of the United States armed forces.  In 1998, the total cost of remedial education programs is estimated to be over $65 billion.  Sixteen million children are now enrolled in Title 1 and Special Education remedial programs.  Of them, only about 1 million have physical or mental handicaps that require them to take such classes, says Regna Lee Wood of the National Right to Read Foundation.  The rest are in these classes, she says, because of what she calls "school-induced illiteracy"- - the failure of teachers to teach them how to read, write and do simple math.  Evidence of the growing failure of government schools continues to pour in.  Seventy percent of U.S. high school students can't read ninth-grade assignments.  Thirty percent of U.S. high school seniors can't read proficiently at a fourth-grade level.  A 1998 international math survey ranked U. S. students near the bottom of 20 countries."


. . . "if it is ($)325 or ($)400 (a) year (or) more divided by twelve and paid with mortgage payments, no one in Fairfax County who qualifies for a mortgage should be angry to pay it.  They should be ashamed of themselves for wanting to spend money on vacations and not on making  sure children are well educated."  This statement was made by Robert Whiteman, First V. P., Fairfax County Council of PTAs, in an e-mail exchange with Arthur Purves, President of the FCTA.  Mr. Whiteman apparently was distressed that Mr. Purves would dare dispute the contention of the FCCPTA that increasing the counties' cost of  borrowing from 9% to 15% would "only" cost taxpayers an additional $65 a year.  Mr. Purves conservatively estimated the additional cost to taxpayers to be $157 a year or possibly much higher.  In order to pay for increased borrowing costs, The FCCPTA supports a new income tax for Fairfax County residents and suggests that independent taxing authority be given to the county school board.                        T Pfister

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The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
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© 1999 by the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, Inc.
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