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Superintendent makes misleading statements about school budget

Superintendent makes misleading statements about school budget

Testimony by FCTA's Arthur Purves to the School Board
regarding the FY2004 school budget - January 27, 2003

Members of the Board and Dr. Domenech:

In this year's budget letter, the superintendent states that Fairfax County Public Schools budget cuts have totaled $80.5 million in the past three years. One would expect therefore that this year's budget would be $80.5 million less than the budget three years ago. Not so. This year's budget is $345 million larger.

Perhaps the letter meant that the budget had not kept up with enrollment over the three-year period. In fact enrollment increased six percent since FY2000 while the budget increased 27 percent. Perhaps the letter meant that the budget had not kept up with inflation. However, inflation since FY2000 was seven percent.

This year's school operating budget is $180 million more than needed to keep up with inflation and enrollment growth over the past three years. How can anyone transform this into a budget cut? Apparently the school administration feels it can promote its budget only by misrepresenting it.

The letter states, "Student membership growth continues to outpace available revenue ..." In fact, revenue is outpacing membership. Since 1998 inflation-adjusted spending per student has increased by 12 percent (from $8600 per student to $9600).

The letter mentions "... declining per-pupil expenditures in comparison to neighboring districts." This disingenuous statement covers up a $1000 real increase in Fairfax County per-student spending since 1998. Since 1998, Fairfax County school staff has increased twice as fast as enrollment (20% vs 11%). Evidently, nearby school districts have been increasing spending even faster than Fairfax County.

This has been going on for decades. Since 1975 school staff has increased nearly four times faster than enrollment and inflation-adjusted spending per student has doubled.

No matter how much real school spending increases, the administration proclaims an annual budget crisis, to promote tax increases and fight tax cuts. The result is that between this year's supervisor election and the last one, real estate taxes for the typical Fairfax County household will have increased $1000 in four years. Would Kate Hanley be county chairman if voters had realized that voting for her would cost them $1000 in higher real estate taxes? Before the last election she stated that she did not foresee raising taxes.

Having watched this chronic misrepresentation of government spending at the school, county, and state levels, I would submit that our current form of government is best described as "taxation by misrepresentation".

Thank you.