FCTA News



Fairfax County subsidizes the rest of Virginia

posted Feb 11, 2012, 3:07 PM by Arthur Purves

Charles R. and Linda L. McAndrew
12808 Willow Glen Court
Oak Hill, VA 20171

February 9, 2012

Delegate Jim LeMunyon
910 Capitol Square
Richmond, VA. 23219

Subject: Fairfax County fails to receive fair share

Dear Delegate LeMunyon,

For years, Fairfax County has not received their fare share of funds being returned from Richmond. Now, we
understand that, because of the U.S. census revised figures from 2010, Fairfax County has had rapid growth in its
population. We now are entitled to a larger Northern Virginia delegation. It is time now for our Northern Virginia’s
state senators and delegates in our General Assembly to push for more funding for Fairfax County.

According to the Washington Examiner dated February 2, 2012, the headlines read on the front page, “Montgomery
Co. Md. and Fairfax Co. Va. subsidize Md. and Va.” The article stated, “ As the economic engines of Virginia and
Maryland, Fairfax and Montgomery counties are expected to subsidize less prosperous areas, officials said, but the
breadth of the disparity angers local leaders. We are too much a donor region said Fairfax County Supervisor Pat
Herrity. When we have issues, we need to make sure we have sufficient resources to fix the problem, according to
Herrity.”

The article also stated, “Fairfax County, home to one-seventh of Virginia’s population, generated $2.6 billion in non-
transportation revenue for the commonwealth in 2010, according to county figures, but only receives about $546
million or 21 cents for every dollar sent to the state”. We are simply being gypped! It is time for the Northern Virginia
General Assembly members to stand up for Fairfax County. Why should we be receiving only 21 cents on the dollar?

The Fairfax County Times headlines on the front page dated February 3, 2010 stated, “Fairfax County leaders balk at
governor’s plan for transportation.” The article stated, “Supervisors have made it clear that their opposition to the
concept of devolution-placing new road maintenance responsibilities on localities”. So it appears that the State wants
to dump their responsibilities for road maintenance and repairs on the larger counties with population exceeding
200,000 which includes Fairfax. This would not be a problem if Fairfax County received its fair share. Of course, the
state representatives have not yet resolved protecting the Transportation Trust Fund from raids! You might recall
that the State officials raided the Transportation Trust Fund for $300 million for other purposes about five or six years
ago which was improper and perhaps illegal. What is being done to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from being
raided again?

We would appreciate your written response to our questions in this letter. Thank you for your attention to these
important matters.

Sincerely,

Charles R. McAndrew

Linda L. McAndrew

Cc: Fairfax County Supervisors

All Northern Va. General Assembly Members

Mr. Arthur Purves, President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance


From: Pat Herrity [mailto:pat.herrity@strategicsocial.com]
Sent: Saturday, February 11, 2012 12:25 PM
To: charles.mcandrew@verizon.net
Cc: McDaniel, Kyle; Foreman, Dave
Subject: RE: FAIRFAX COUNTY FAILS TO RECEIVE FAIR SHARE

 

Thank you for your letter. Personally I believe it will take a partnership with the other donor regions in the Urban Crescent (Tidewater, Richmond, and NoVa) to get change.  Legislators in our region need to put party politics aside, get together and reach out to the other legislators in the urban areas that also receive less than they pay in taxes and begin to fix the ratio.  Our jurisdiction does not have the votes to do it by themselves. Unfortunately I am not aware of a concentrated effort to accomplish this.  I will continue to raise this as one of the answers to our transportation problems in NoVa.

Thanks again for your email.

pat

Cut taxes by $1500. Don't raise them by $300.

posted Feb 5, 2012, 6:26 AM by Arthur Purves

Remarks to the Fairfax County School Board Budget Hearing - January 30, 2012
By Arthur G. Purves (purves@fcta.org)
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.

 Thank you.

Paying for Dulles rail without increasing tolls

posted Feb 4, 2012, 12:14 PM by Arthur Purves

10 June 2011
By Fred Costello
Board Member At-large
Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

Summary:

The rail system can be economically worthwhile, without tax support, if certain conditions are met.  These conditions are derived (logically deduced) from the analysis presented in the Discussion section of this report.  The conditions are:
1. The population density within 0.25 miles of each of the six residential stations must be 101 people per acre.  If there is one non-rider per rider, the total population density around the station must be at least 203 people per acre.  If there are two people per dwelling unit, there would be 101 dwelling units per acre.  If each dwelling had a floor plan of 1000 sq.ft.per person and 50% of the land area was covered by buildings, the buildings would be 9 stories high.  Each station would board 14,167 riders per day.  (The computations are in Appendix A.)
2. For every station surrounded by businesses with a FAR of 2 and 300 sq.ft. per person,  workers would be accommodated, the equivalent of 2.5 stations surrounded by residential units. If only 30% ride the rail system, one business station could provide enough employment for 0.75 residential stations.  Mixing residential and commercial units at a single station will take away from the support of the rail system.  Mixing units is clearly a better economic strategy than rail because the residents will walk to work, no rail will be needed, and the potential riders would save the most.
3. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) used 85,000, which value we used in this report..
4. If the costs are borne by the beneficiaries in proportion to their benefit, the following split is equitable:
           $8.18 average daily fare for rail riders on the Silver Line extention past East Falls Church
           $0.40 daily toll for toll-road drivers
           77%  of the increase in land value near the Metro must be paid as a tax by the owners
The current Metrorail fare structure would call for an average daily (round trip) fare of $8.88, varying from $2.92 to $14.28, depending on distance traveled.
5. The Supplementary EIS shows an increase in automotive pollution due to the Dulles rail system because more cars will be on the road.  Although $10 per day seems excessive, the rider will save money relative to driving to work, if the next three conditions are met.
6. Commercial-property owners must not build parking space to accommodate rail riders, so that the business owners save construction costs that can be passed to the rider.
7. The rider must forego owning an automobile and a house with a garage.  The rider's spouse may own a car and a garage at the house.  The rider saves money by not owning the one automobile and the garage it requires.  This saving more than offsets what the rider pays for the rail fare.
8. Street parking and parking-lot parking must not accommodate the automobile the rider might otherwise own.  Because 90% of the riders live within 0.25 miles of a station, this characteristic is not severely restricting.  If such parking were permitted, the rider would not save on a garage cost because he could use this free parking.
 
Present plans do not meet several of these conditions.  There is no rush by developers to build housing with such limited parking space and by businesses to build office buildings with fewer parking spaces.  Many of the commercial buildings are already built; therefore, the owners would realize no cost saving.
 

The foregoing is based on having no taxpayer subsidy (called a government subsidy) for the rail system.  There is little logical reason to provide such a subsidy because the three classes of beneficiaries can carry the cost.  Construction costs would be paid not by taxes but by, for example, a rail-revenue bond similar to the highway bonds issued in the past.  Although plans call for most of the construction cost to be borne by the Federal and State governments, these monies are taken from those who do not benefit; therefore, they are unfair (Appendix C).

 

The foregoing is also based on no escalation of construction costs.  Projects of this type frequently have cost overruns of 100% to 200%.  The fare must be increased to compensate for any such escalation.

 

Download  complete report  (MS Word docx format).


Is an Increase in the Real-Estate Tax Rate Affordable?

posted Aug 29, 2011, 7:47 PM by Alexander Romero   [ updated Aug 29, 2011, 7:53 PM ]

See attached document by Fred Costello.

Testimony regarding the Fairfax County Advertised FY2012 Budget

posted Mar 29, 2011, 9:34 PM by Arthur Purves   [ updated Mar 29, 2011, 9:48 PM ]

Testimony at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Budget Hearing

By Arthur G. Purves - President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

March 29, 2011

Madam Chairman and Members of the Board:

My name is Arthur Purves.  I address you as president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.

County and School Board budget presentations this year have been less than candid.

In proposing an average real estate tax hike of $111 for next year, the County Executive said that the higher tax would still be $12 less than what we were paying in 2007.  That is false, because he did not include the new stormwater real estate tax, which is hidden in Fund 318.

Moreover, the County Executive neglected to say that in 2007 we were paying not ten dollars more, but $2,400 more in real estate taxes than we were paying in 2000.

To reverse the tax real estate tax hikes made during the housing bubble, you would have to set the real estate tax rate at 74 cents, rather than the $1.09 that you are proposing.

The school Superintendent claims that between FY2009 and 2011, schools made more than $465 million in “reductions and cost avoidances” and eliminated 1,400 positions.  However, when we looked at the school budget, we found that this year (FY2011), Fairfax County Public Schools estimates that it will spend $100 million more than was spent in FY2009 ($2,177M in FY2009 vs. $2,276M in FY2011).  We also found that there is this year 161 fewer employees than in FY2009 (22,150 in FY2011 vs. 22,311 in FY2009), not 1,400.

School comments on achievement do not address college preparation.  However of the 3,511 Fairfax County seniors who took the ACT college admissions test last year, only 44 percent were prepared for college.

 School presentations propose four-percent raises for all school employees as necessary to remain competitive with neighboring school districts.  What the presentations did not say is that last year, after two years without raises, Fairfax County Public Schools had 30,000 applicants for 1,000 job openings.  They’re even getting applicants from other states that are in worse financial shape than Virginia.

The schools claim that for hard-to-fill positions they have far fewer than 30 applicants; however the schools could, but do not, offer hiring and retention bonuses for hard-to-fill positions.

The schools are also less than candid when they state that they cannot estimate the increase in the FY2013 Virginia Retirement System (VRS) payment.   That increase is going to be about $125 million.  In addition in FY2013 the schools will lose $21 million of Federal stimulus money.  So the School Board is covering up at least a $146 million budget shortfall they do not want to become an issue for the upcoming school board election.  Instead, they will spring a budget crisis on the taxpayers right after the election and demand a large tax increase that will not have been discussed during the election

That neither the County nor the schools can be honest about the proposed tax increases proves one thing:  They know that higher taxes do not solve their problems; higher taxes subsidize problems while the problems become worse.

Consider these two problems:

First, County and school employees want raises that outpace inflation.   So does the private sector. The problem is that for decades household incomes have been flat.  Are you going to continue to raise taxes on the private-sector taxpayer so that the public sector can be better paid than the taxpayers who fund them?

 Is the United States still a prosperous nation? We import more than we export, the Federal government is borrowing a quarter to a third of its budget, and we export our technology and manufacturing jobs.  This is a national problem, but the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors can work with powerful national unions and national associations of counties to be an influence to repatriate America’s manufacturing expertise.  The public nor the private sectors are in this together; neither can have real salary increases until the United States regains its economic strength.

Second, public employees would like to keep their pensions, which the private sector now rarely offers.  This problem would be largely solved if we fixed the job creation problem just referred to.  However, life spans have increased, employees frequently retire, start drawing their pensions, and then get another job. As of 1 July 2010 Fairfax County pension funds had an unfunded liability of $1.7 billion.  The VRS unfunded liability is $20 billion.  We asked the VRS how many years would it be before it is unable to pay benefits.  They did not know.  It seems likely that retirement ages will have to be raised to kept these trust funds solvent.

Higher taxes cannot solve these problems.  However, using your influence as Supervisors of Fairfax County, you can solve them.  Remember Henry Ford, who said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Thank you.

FCTA Testimony on the Fairfax County Public Schools Proposed FY2012 Budget

posted Mar 13, 2011, 3:10 PM by Arthur Purves   [ updated Mar 13, 2011, 3:27 PM ]

Testimony at the Fairfax County School Board Budget Hearing

By Arthur G. Purves - President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

January 24, 2011

Dr. Dale and Members of the Board:

Good evening.  My name is Arthur Purves. I address you as president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.

Recently a Taxpayer Alliance board member emailed the school board to express concerns about rising taxes.  The reply, from an at-large school board member, stated that one reason for increased taxes is that FCPS has to pay next year $8.1 million to implement an unfunded mandate for online testing.

One would conclude from the school board email that unfunded mandates were the primary driver of higher school spending.  That would be an incorrect conclusion.  In his FY2012 budget proposal, the superintendent has proposed $99 million of spending increases.

Of that, $47 million is to give all school employees average raises of 4 percent, since they have gone without raises for two years.  However, between 2001 and 2009, county and school raises exceeded DC area private sector raises by 300 percent (22% vs. 7.3%0)  I doubt that many private-sector businesses will be giving 4 percent raises to all employees next year.

Another $33 million is for increased pension and health insurance costs, even though private-sector taxpayers are far less likely than county workers to have pensions and health insurance.  When you include pensions and health insurance, school and county workers are far better compensated than the private sector.  Are you and the neighboring school districts being fair to taxpayers when you raise taxes so that county employees can have better raises and benefits than the taxpayers who fund them?

Does student achievement justify higher taxes?  We think not.  According to the ACT college admissions test results for Fairfax County Public Schools, last year only 44 percent of the students tested were prepared for college.  Also, while FCPS made adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, remember that passing SOL tests requires only “D” level achievement.

While we oppose compensation increases, we heartily agree teachers are overworked. Lighten their load.  Special Ed teachers have told us that they need to work 80 hours a week, but only 40 hours is spent teaching; the rest is for IEPs, which are federally mandated.  Here’s a solution:  as a school board you can declare all your schools to be charter schools, waive the unnecessary and burdensome mandates and let your teachers teach.

In summary, we believe that the school board is unfair to taxpayers, overstates academic achievement, and unnecessarily burdens its teachers.

Thank you.

FCTA Testimony on the Virginia Budget

posted Jan 8, 2011, 10:26 AM by Arthur Purves   [ updated Mar 13, 2011, 3:24 PM ]

Testimony to the Fairfax County Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly

By Arthur G. Purves - President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

January 8, 2011

Distinguished Members of the General Assembly:

My name is Arthur Purves. I address you as president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.

Virginia’s current budget crisis was preceded by a ten-year spending binge. According to the Virginia General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s Review of State Spending: 2007 Update, between 1998 and 2007, the Virginia budget doubled, from $17.6 billion to $35 billion.

The report (Table 4) states that during this period Virginia public college inflation-adjusted budgets increased three times faster than enrollment (46% vs. 15%), inflation-adjusted spending for public schools increased four times faster than enrollment (37% vs. 9%), and Medicaid spending adjusted for Medical Inflation increased four times faster than population (48% vs. 12%). Unbelievably, public school staff increased five times faster than enrollment (48% vs. 9%).

However, according to the 2010 ACT college admissions test results for Virginia, only 31 percent of the 19,236 Virginia students taking the test were prepared for college. While the Standards of Learning (SOL) testing program has accredited most schools, passing the SOL tests (“Pass Proficient”) represents “D” level work. When I queried the VDOE database to find the percent of students who scored at “Pass Advanced”, which is a much better indicator of college preparedness, the response I got was “The data you have requested would require 303 columns. The most allowed by Excel is 256. Please adjust your request to decrease the number of columns” with no guidance on how to reduce the number of columns.

College achievement is also decreasing while college tuition increases. Why does college tuition outpace inflation? I cannot find a JLARC report on the topic.

Medicaid funds healthcare for those in poverty. Isn’t the solution to educate low-income children so they can become self-supporting adults? However, despite decades of lip-service to the minority student achievement gap it is clear that our public schools, with their progressive anti-phonics, anti-drill, anti-fact, atheistic curriculum cannot close it. Why do you give state and local school boards veto authority over charter schools when these boards are unable to educate their own students?

After decades of massive public-education funding with paltry results, you should cut education spending and open the way to school competition.

Massive spending on education and healthcare is one of the major reasons there is inadequate funding for roads and bridges. The other reason is Dulles Rail. Five billion dollars for Dulles Rail is five billion diverted from road and bridge construction. The Dulles Rail project construction began without a viable financial plan. The Airports Authority will not disclose how much it will raise tolls to pay for it. The expectation is that tolls will increase ten-fold. Support Delegate LeMunyon’s bill to require Loudoun and Fairfax supervisors to vote on all toll road increases. If Dulles Rail collapses because of this, let it be a monument to reckless local and state government budgeting.

Dulles Rail is not too big to fail.

Thank you.

FCTA testimony cited in Connection Newspapers

posted Mar 21, 2010, 2:03 PM by Arthur Purves   [ updated Apr 18, 2010, 6:07 PM ]

Click here.

Why there's no money for Fairfax County parks and libraries ...

posted Mar 20, 2010, 6:32 AM by Arthur Purves   [ updated Jan 16, 2011, 6:08 AM by Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance ]


Compared to Fiscal Year 2000, the Fairfax County advertised FY2011 budget cuts inflation-adjusted spending for parks and libraries by 38 percent to help pay for a 70 percent increase in the cost of employee benefits.

In dollars, the cut to parks and libraries is $30M and the increase in the cost of employee benefits is $103M.

Also, between FY2000 and FY2011, Fairfax County inflation-adjusted spending for public schools will have increased more than twice as fast as enrollment (32% vs. 13%).  That is an increase of $607M for schools.

Fairfax County supervisors advertise a $100 increase in real estate taxes

posted Mar 10, 2010, 8:03 PM by Arthur Purves   [ updated Apr 3, 2010, 6:46 AM ]

On March 9, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors advertised increasing the real estate tax rate from $1.05 to $1.135 for each $100 of assessed value of a house.  This would increase real estate taxes for the typical Fairfax County household from $4808 this year to $4908 next year.  The supervisors are also reintroducing a $33 car registration fee.

Between 2000 and 2007, the supervisors doubled the typical homeowner's real estate tax from $2,407 to $4,846.  Since then, while housing assessments have decreased, the supervisors have kept the typical real estate tax above $4800.

The supervisors advertised a residential real estate tax rate of $1.12.  However, hidden in the budget is another real estate tax for stormwater management, which the supervisors are also increasing from 1 cent to 1 1/2 cents.  This makes the total real estate tax rate $1.135.

If Fairfax County residential real estate taxes had increased no faster than inflation since 2000, next year's average residential real estate tax would be $3279 instead of the $4908 proposed by the supervisors.  The real estate tax rate would be 76 cents instead of $1.135.

The 9 1/2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate increases county revenue by $177 million.

The school board advocates a $100-million tax increase to pay for a one-year $96 million increase in the cost of  employee benefits.  Of that $71 million is for increased pension costs and $15 million is for the unfunded liability for retiree medical benefits.  Most private-sector taxpayers do not have pensions or retiree medical benefits.  The county likewise has a $35 million one-year increase in employee benefits, of which approximately $20 million is for increased pension costs.

The supervisors will hold budget hearings on April 6, 7, and 8.  Depending on the outcome of the hearings, the supervisors may decide to adopt a lower tax rate.  The law forbids them. however, from approving a tax rate higher than the $1.135 advertised rate.  They vote on the budget and tax increases on April 27.  If the supervisors do not increase school funding by $96 million, the school board has said that they will increase class size and cut band and sports to pay for the increased pension and benefit costs.

CALL TO ACTION:  Tell the supervisors to stop raising taxes to give county and school employees get better benefits than taxpayers receive.  See the "Provide Feedback" box on the upper right corner of the county budget page.

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