30 January 2012
By Arthur G. Purves
President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
Dr. Dale and Members of the Board:
Good evening. I am Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.
Between FY2000 and FY2007, real estate taxes for the typical Fairfax County household doubled, from $2400 to $4800 per year. Since 2007, the supervisors have kept the real estate tax at $4800, despite decreasing assessments. This is $1500 more than the typical household would pay today if real estate taxes had increased only at the rate of inflation since FY2000.
The school superintendent is proposing a $136 million increase in next year’s county funding for the school system. This would increase the real estate tax by another $300. In presenting next year’s budget to the press, the superintendent was less than candid. He stated that since FY2009 the school budget has been cut by $475 million. In fact this year’s budget is $181 million more than in FY2009. The superintendent stated that since FY2009 schools had eliminated 1450 positions. In fact there are now 469 more employees than in FY2009.
Regarding salaries, the superintendent’s charts state that he was giving employees a 2 percent market scale adjustment and a step increase. The charts not state that the step increase was an additional 2.7 percent salary increase. So some newspapers reported that he is proposing a 2 percent raise when in fact he is proposing a 4.7 percent raise for most employees.
The superintendent is spending $46 million more for increased enrollment, but he is spending $116 million more on salary hikes and benefits. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey for Fairfax County, between 2005 and 2010, employees of private companies had no salary increase. However over the same period, FCPS teacher salaries increased 29 percent. Last year there were 30,000 applicants for 1200 FCPS teaching vacancies. It is not necessary to raise salaries to be competitive. Also, a recent Sun-Gazette editorial opposed five percent raises when the county’s economy is facing cuts in Federal spending.
There is a $66-million increase in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) contribution. Even this increase is less than the $98 million increase the VRS actuary says is necessary to amortize the pension fund’s $20 billion unfunded liability. Is it fair to have private-sector taxpayers pay an extra $1800 in taxes to fund badly managed public-sector pensions, especially when those private-sector taxpayers no longer get pensions?
We are paying high taxes for low achievement. Last year’s ACT college admission test showed that only 46 percent of the 3,707 FCPS seniors tested were prepared for college. School competition, not tax hikes, will raise achievement. The supervisors and schools should be cutting taxes by $1500, not raising them by $300.