Bulletins‎ > ‎Prior Years‎ > ‎1997‎ > ‎

1997 Summer Bulletin


COUNTY Collects $9 Billion in Tax Increases


It is Fairfax County's best kept secret.

It is not mentioned in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' annual budget reports. It is not mentioned in the Fairfax County School Board's annual budget reports. It is not mentioned in the Fairfax County Public Schools' 1996 Good Schools Good for Everyone: Community Accountability

Report. It was not mentioned in the April 1996 Report of the Task Force on County Revenues and Expenditures. It was not mentioned in Peat Marwick's December 1996 management review of Fairfax County government. It was not mentioned in MGT of America's April 1997 management review of Fairfax County Public Schools.

THE secret is this: Since 1975 per-capita taxes in Fairfax County have increased 385%. ("Per capita" means per person.) Per-capita taxes increased twice as fast as inflation, which increased 207% during the same period.

BETWEEN 1975 and 1998 Fairfax County will have collected $9.3 billion more in taxes than was required to keep up with population growth and inflation.

IF taxes had not increased faster than population and inflation since 1975, the typical Fairfax County household would now be paying 40% less in county taxes. The typical household would have saved $1300 in taxes this year and $8,000 since 1990.

Of the $9.3 billion tax increase, the school system received $5.7 billion and the county government received $3.6 billion.

The only official mention of these increases was in the May 1992 report of the Commission on Fiscal and Spending Priorities (the Cole Commission).

The Cole Commission's Program Expenditures Committee stated in its final report, "Growth in County spending over the period from FY 1980 to FY 1992 has far exceeded the benchmark of population and Consumer Price Index (CPI) growth over the same period."

COUNTY government and school system reports avoid publicizing the spending increases by citing figures only after 1991. As the graph shows, steep increases in per-capita taxes occurred before 1991.

THE county and the school system have not acknowledged the tax increases, and they have not reported where the increases were spent and why.

HOW much is $9.3 billion? In comparison, the proposed replacement for the Woodrow Wilson bridge is projected to cost $1.6 billion. A railway connector from Tysons Corner to Dulles Airport would cost $2 billion. Neither project is funded.

If county spending had not increased faster than population and inflation, the county's FY98 General Fund budget would have been reduced by half, from $1.8 billion to $.9 billion. The school system's budget would have been $544 million less and county government (non-school) spending would have been $329 million less. It would have been possible to eliminate the Personal Property and the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) taxes. In FY98, these two taxes are projected to raise $412 million - $337 from Personal Property and $75 million from the BPOL.

The $.9 billion dwarfs the cost reductions recommended in the recent county government and school system management reviews. The school system review recommended reductions of only $14 million and the county government review recommended reductions of only $32 million.

THESE two management reviews, which cost the taxpayers $600,000, neither acknowledged nor analyzed the steep spending and tax increases occurring before 1991. Both management reviews suggest, however, that there is inadequate accountability for government and school spending.

In a December 17, 1996, briefing to the Board of Supervisors, the county government management review team stated, "Fairfax County has not driven toward efficiency." The briefing states that "elected bodies rarely receive positive, objective information" and mentions a ". . . lack of performance measures to define government service outcomes . . . ."

DESPITE receiving more than $5 billion in tax increases to help fund a 476% increase in per-student spending, there has been no improvement in the fourth, eighth, and eleventh grade standardized test scores. THEre has been an improvement in SAT scores, but only from about the 57th to the 65th percentile. Average scores on College Board achievement tests (now called SAT IIs) are at the 50th percentile.

Despite many new social programs in schools, such as Family Life Education, elementary school guidance counselors, mental health lessons, peer counseling and peer mediation, school behavior is worse and drug use is reportedly up. The county now spends another $2.6 million per year to station police officers in schools.

Many school buildings are overdue for renovations, and the school administration has eliminated preventive maintenance crews. Five high schools, Annandale, McLean, Madison, J.E.B. Stuart, and Lee, were built forty years ago and have never been renovated. Renovations should occur every 25 years.

In 1995, the School Board instructed the school administration to provide ". . . the results of evaluations of all current instructional programs and to determine whether these programs are effectively serving the purposes for which they were intended. . . ."

For two years in a row, the school system responded with annual program budgets that list the costs of all educational programs but do not assess program effectiveness.

Page 3-38 of the school system's management review states: On-site interviews with school and division staff indicated that schools are constantly implementing new programs without having time to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs. Teachers, in particular, expressed concern about having to implement new programs every year while they are still struggling to implement programs initiated in prior years. For example, a review of the reading program indicates that there is no formal evaluation process to evaluate its impact on student learning.

This November, schools will ask taxpayers to approve a school bond referendum of more than $200 million. The school administration anticipates needing $40 million more in FY99 and $25 million more in each of the three years after that. The County Board of Supervisors is considering a new storm water utility fee to raise between $13 and $25 million per year. The county should first account for the 385% tax increase it has already levied before asking for additional increases and bonds.

Arthur Purves

Fairfax County Schools: Escalating Computer Spending

The school system has an antiquated personnel payroll computer program, which has to be changed to take care of the date problem when the year 2000 comes along. The cost of doing this upgrade is estimated at $1 million. So what does the school system ask for? You guessed it, a completely new system costing about $2.5 million. School Board members found out about this new Human Resources Information System (HRIS) when they received an FCPS proposal being sent out for bids. Touted as the required "fix" for the year 2000 problem, the proposal clearly asks for a totally new system, not an upgrade.

We are told that children will be hurt if the budget submitted by the superintendent is not fully supported. Then, behind the scenes, we see funding being requested for much more than is needed, funding that can in no way be considered as helping our children.

Doug Barylski<


JUSTICE for Taxpayers

Recently baseball promoters suggested that Fairfax offer thousands of dollars in subsidies to attract a professional baseball club to the area. Maryland has already given millions to have two football clubs within a 30 minute drive from one another. This is not just professional sports as the Commonwealth has given millions in tax breaks and road projects to bring Motorola to Virginia and New Jersey gave away millions to persuade Microsoft to locate there.

As more and more special deals are offered, more and more corporations are demanding such deals as the price of a new plant, or even to keep a present business from relocating.

not have to happen. We can fight back by using our collective power at the federal level. Every year states receive millions in federal highway funds for local road projects. Their representatives fight for federal money claiming urgent need even while local governments give away the store to subsidize profitable companies. Taxpayers from all over the country are indirectly subsidizing these projects, and we should say no. If a state or local government wants to give away money and the voters support it that is their business, but the country as a whole should not be asked to contribute through their federal highway dollars. The federal highway funding formula should be amended so that any state that gave subsidies to attract or retain a private business would have that sum subtracted from their formula.

Suppose Booster County wanted to persuade LEECH Corp. to build a new plant in their county. LEECH Corp. says yes, but only if we are exempt from the property and all other local taxes, only if you build the roads to our new corporate campus, only if you will pay for the training of all our workers and only if you build new schools to accommodate our workers' children. The Booster County Board of Supervisors agrees to these absurd demands. Under my proposal the state would see its highway funds reduced by the amount of tax breaks and subsidies offered to LEECH Corp. Whether the state would support Booster County is another question, and it is quite likely that they would be forced to reject LEECH Corp's demands. Nor could LEECH Corp. simply move to a more obliging jurisdiction. Even if a locality would sacrifice its federal highway money to attract business, no state would permit it. By amending the Federal Highway funding formula to prohibit the indirect federal subsidy for local give-a-ways we would end this pernicious practice. All localities would be equal, and would have to compete on the basis of quality of life and infrastructure with services that would benefit all and not just powerful corporations.

Alice Marie Marshall

Falls Church, VA

REAL Estate Assessment Appeal Procedure

If so, please be advised that it is possible to contest your real estate assessment. The following information has been researched by one of our members, Warren Hill. Good Luck!

1. From your county supervisor's office you must first obtain a "REAL ESTATE ASSESSMENT APPEAL APPLICATION." Or, you may write or call for an application from:

Fairfax County
Department of Tax Administration
Real Estate Division
12000 Government Center Parkway
Suite 223
Fairfax, Va. 22035
Tel: 222-8234

2. Completion of the form is reasonably straightforward. On page 4, however, you will need to compare the assessed value of your home with others in the neighborhood. This will require you to walk about the neighborhood and obtain the addresses of three (3) homes that are comparable to yours. After obtaining the addresses you must call the Tax Assessment division, (703) 222-8234, and request for each of the three properties you have selected to support your appeal, the Map Reference Number, the Assessed Value of property and land, and the costs of any improvements.

3. From the above information you are then asked to complete the section "STATE HOW THIS PROPERTY SUPPORTS YOUR APPEAL" ( sale price, uniformity, etc.).

SCHOOL Board Does Not Control the Scope of School System Contracts

THEy have to decide whether to award a contract to the lowest bidder, or to award the contract to the company which provides the best value. The agency then must prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP), or a similar document, which completely describes what they want. The "RFP" is then sent out for bids, and finally, after review of each company's proposal, the agency awards the contract.

Many contracts are awarded for millions of dollars by this process, and our School Board does not have to approve of anything until the school system has selected who to award the contract to - at the very end of the process. At this point, if the School Board did not like something about the contract, they could prevent the contract from being awarded. However, this forces the administration to start the process all over again, costing many man-hours. Most often, contracts are approved by the School Board without discussion. One wonders if they even know what the contract says.

Doug Barylski

"It is imperative that mathematics educators be sensitive to the diverse cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds of today's student body. We must examine our fundamental expectations of what students can learn and do and create learning environments in which these expectations can be met."

From the Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics Executive Summary published by the NCTM

WELCOME to the fuzzy world of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Fairfax County's MTV math curriculum, and the Houghton Mifflin Math textbook series. Enter this world where third-graders learn to think mathematically by discussing with their group how they would recreate U.S. currency. Children explore the meaning of place value by punching numbers into a calculator with a partner. Fifth-graders discover the attributes of polynomials with their group.

YOUR child cannot add, subtract, multiply, or divide. No need for concern. He has achieved one of the six levels of mathematical understanding. Your eight-year-old may be frustrated when asked to divide with remainders before she has mastered her multiplication tables. Give her a calculator. Comparing fractions with uncommon denominators before mastering division is no problem. Look at the pictures.

Fairfax County's math curriculum is based on an integrated approach to instruction - a theory promulgated by the NCTM. Algebra, arithmetic, geometry, and statistics are taught simultaneously, instead of sequentially, using a "spiral" approach. Concepts are introduced superficially and revisited in more depth throughout the years. Children absorb math by observing patterns, solving problems, and talking about processes and ideas.

In a recent address to the California Board of Education, E.D. Hirsch, author of the popular What Your 1st . . . 6th Grader Needs To Know series, eloquently and persuasively builds a case against this current trend in mathematics education.* To support his case, he cites consensus research from three distinguished scientists in the field of math education psychology. E.D. Hirsch argues that NCTM-cited research is less reliable because it is on the research frontier where there are many rival theories. No one knows what theories will ultimately prevail. He argues that curriculum based on frontier research amounts to "unwarranted human experimentation."

ACCORDING to E.D. Hirsch, consensus research tells us that "only intelligently directed and repeated practice, leading to fast, automatic recall of math facts, and facility in computation and algebraic manipulation can lead one to effective real-world problem solving." This theory is based on scientific evidence in both isolated lab experiments and large-scale classroom evaluations.

E.D. Hirsch is not alone in challenging this popular trend in mathematics education. The diverse chorus of challengers includes members of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers, a past NCTM president, many distinguished professors, and parent activists throughout the country.

WHY have Fairfax County educrats embarked on this grand experiment with 80,000 elementary schoolchildren? Only they can answer this question. I suspect the answer is revealed in the opening NCTM quote.


Susan Ormiston Christ

World Wide Web

Check out our Web Page at - HTTP://WWW.CROSSLINK.NET/~FCTA/

Our e-mail address is FCTA@CROSSLINK.NET If you have information that the taxpayers of Fairfax County should know about, let us know. You may also call us at 703-642-5567.

HELP Wanted

Volunteers willing to help the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance with its efforts to get the most value for taxpayer's dollars are invited to send an e-mail message to the FCTA Webmaster at fcta@crosslink.net or phone us at 703-642--5567, leaving your name, phone number, and the kind of help for which you are volunteering. Examples of the kind of help needed include:

acquire documents for FCTA use from the County offices
visit County offices to record data from documents kept in those offices
make phone calls to County staff to gather data or information
enter data from documents into a computer data base or spreadsheet file
perform data analysis and prepare trend, distribution or other graphs or charts
track data trends of a specific government agency or activity, such as:

- general administration
- judicial administration
- public safety
- public works
- health and welfare
- parks, recreation and cultural
- community development
- capital projects
- non-department activities and in addition:
develop special analysis of and reports about budget proposals
attend meetings or make presentations to the Board of Supervisors
watch and report on Board of Supervisors public meetings
locate and request data about the county from state or federal sources
prepare recommended FCTA positions or policies
prepare or edit public reports of budget-related findings
handle phone contacts with volunteers

Thank You,

Ludwig Benner
Chairman FCTA County Budget Committee