A compromise appears nigh regarding how some of the new education funding from the sales tax increase will be distributed. Currently school funding comes from a variety of pots and distributed in several ways. One method is through the SOQs that use the local composite index. The LCI favors poorer areas. The LCI is widely criticized in areas such as Fairfax, which through that formula gets about 23 cents back for every $1 it sends to Richmond.
There are also formulas for specific program funds that are distributed based on students’ special needs. Fairfax, with its high immigrant population, gets a better return under this formula.
And the one cent of the current sales tax that is dedicated to schools is distributed based on the number of school age kids in an area.
But the additional ¼-cent for education approved in the tax bill, expected to amount to more than $350 million, is likely to be distributed using yet another calculation, perhaps a hybrid formula.
Given these disparities, negotiators are talking about splitting the difference. They would take the one-quarter cent set aside for education and divide it in half. That means they would send one-eighth of a cent back to local governments via one method, school-aged population. Another eighth cent would be based on the basic aid formula. That’s just one scenario, but there may be others.
Of course, Fairfax, Loudoun and only a handful of other school districts get little sympathy in other areas of the state. The Roanoke Times railed against whiners in the northern ‘burbs, citing the return they get from the car tax
…[The car tax reimbursement] made no account for the wide variation from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in the size of the local-option levy. By commingling local and state finances, state reimbursements to localities for forgone car-tax revenues amount to an income-transfer program from the poor to the rich. High-tax, high-spending local governments in high-income localities are rewarded for their profligacy; low-tax, low-cost local governments in low-income regions are penalized for their thriftiness.
It’s as if Northern Virginians perceive a divine right to have purely local operations – their rec centers, their school-enrichment programs, their city and county bureaucracies – subsidized by their poorer country cousins to the south and west.
But it’s OK of course for Fairfax to subsidize Roanoke schools.
And here’s a story about one well-to-do Virginia county with students whose SOL scores are among the highest in the state and yet now, with a bill passed this session, will get special treatment and more Northern Virginia dollars so wealthy landowners in this special county can keep more of theirs.
There may circumstances that make this just, but that doesn’t excuse Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Calvin Trice’s apparent bias.
Gov. Mark R. Warner approved a measure that will link the western county’s unusual population to Augusta County’s as a way to ease Highland’s unfair financial burden for public education.
I’ve never read a story about Fairfax’s “unfair” treatment under the LCI.
The index, a state funding formula designed to treat poorer counties more equitably in the appropriation of state dollars for school systems, was mistaking Highland for a wealthy county, instead of one with deteriorating public buildings and that offers no recreation for its citizens.
“Mistaking” Highland County for wealthy? Maybe its buildings are deteriorating because the county isn’t charging absent landlords enough in property taxes. Highland County calls itself “Virginia’s Switzerland.” Do you suppose that’s because it’s become a tax haven for wealthy landowners?
Outsiders have been buying property in Highland during the past 20 years, causing land values to soar. As assessments rose, the composite index for the county shifted more responsibility for public education onto the county government.
And as assessments soared, Highland County lowered its real estate tax rate. Folks in other parts of Virginia don’t seem sympathetic to Northern Virginians as their assessments have soared, raising property taxes more than $1,000 in recent years in Fairfax, for example. In fact, justification for the LCI is that Fairfax has the money to pay for its problems. Most of that is paid by property owners. Why shouldn’t Highland’s property owners pay higher taxes?
Currently, wealthy Highland landowners pay 62 cents per $100 valuation, up from 50 cents a few years ago. While new homes are selling for about $120,000, according to county officials, many of the absent landlords have paid not for the homes as much for the land where they build second homes that you and I could probably never afford. Meanwhile, Fairfax County’s real estate tax rate is $1.10 per $100, almost twice Highland’s. Yet, Trice writes, “Without relief from the index equation, Highland’s ability to run a separate school system was in doubt.”
I wonder if wealthy Fairfax can get some “relief” from the state.
The College of William & Mary, where according to some students the motto should be “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not learning,” costs for the 65 percent of the student body who are Virginians are going up 7.7 percent, including a 10.4 percent tuition hike. The 35 percent from out of state are seeing only a 3.5 percent total cost increase.
Who exactly are we paying for with increased taxes?
“What can we charge and still get high quality out-of-state students?” asked W&M President Timothy Sullivan. “We need to be able to answer these questions.”
Students might perceive something unjust in the difference in costs for in-state and out -of-state students who get the same education, said Robert Archibald, director of the public policy program.
Ah, but do the out-of-state- students pay the same Virginia taxes? Of course not.
Board member and former state Sen. Hunter Andrews argued that having a diversity of faculty and students was an important part of maintaining a national reputation.
“Wouldn’t it be horrible to have nothing but Virginians here?” asked Andrews.
Yes, we wouldn’t want all those horrible Virginians taking up space at colleges they pay taxes for.
Some quotes for today:
“What happened is that Virginians knew that we had cut as much as we could – if they remember nothing but the closing of the DMVs – and we would still be looking at red ink for the rest of the decade,” said [Gov. Mark] Warner, who could have boasted that closing DMV offices was the smartest political move he made. It set the stage for this year’s tax increase.
“It’s not enough … to simply state your ideological position over and over again at higher decibel levels,” [Democratic House Minority Leader Franklin] Hall said. “What we need to do is come down and listen to each other, and stand up for those things you feel strongly about.”
Del. Hall, this is what you’re up against:
“The 17 [Republicans who voted for a tax increase] are fine persons, each of them,” [Republican and former Del. Paul C.] Harris said. “But when liberal or moderate ideology trumps party affiliation, why shouldn’t Republican elected officials who abandon the party’s core conservative fiscal principles expect a conservative challenge as a matter of course correction?”
You see, it’s OK for conservative ideology to trump party affiliation, but not for moderate or liberal ideology to do so.
Harris goes on to say, “These are people who gave enormous time and effort to the party because they want the Republican Party to be the party of Ronald Reagan.”
Would that be the Ronald Reagan who had to ask for tax hikes in 1986 because his earlier tax cuts put the country so far in debt?
No matter where you stand on abortion, this should outrage you.
An anti-abortion group is protesting a school principal’s decision ordering students to remove their anti-abortion T-shirts. Spotsylvania School Superintendent Jerry Hill said the principal, Sheila Smith, took action after students began debating abortion in a class.
God forbid, kids should debate this topical political issue in class.
Hill said the school system’s policy permits principals to bar “any apparel that causes a disruption to the educational process.”
And what process would that be? The thinking process?