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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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:
Department of Tax Administration
Real Estate Division
12000 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, Va. 22035
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.
"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
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
Susan Ormiston Christ
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track data trends of a specific government agency or activity, such as:
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Chairman FCTA County Budget Committee