ON THE ART OF PROTECTING THE BIGGER BUDGET

Here is a post on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS). They just produced a tax increase. Because it well illustrates why it is so hard to cut the budget, I think Board adopts tax rate, budget, an article in the Gainesville Times, is a fascinating read. Here is an excerpt.

Candland raised eyebrows last week when he pushed for a lower tax rate and suggested his fellow Republicans were “sharks circling” around him for asking him to specify where he would reduce spending to fund the tax cuts.

On Tuesday, he acknowledged that conversation hadn’t gone as he’d planned but he later issued a press release accusing the other seven board members of engaging in “petty politics” and “retributions” in passing the budget.

At issue is Catharpin Park and tax cuts.

Supervisors had been planning to set the real estate tax rate at $1.212 and the budget proposal was created based on that revenue.

Last week, supervisors argued at length over changing the tax rate. Some wanted it higher – $1.215 – in order to give additional funds to schools. Candland wanted it lower – $1.175 — which would have required substantial cuts.

Supervisor Marty Nohe (R-Coles) presented an alternative of $1.204 and offered up a series of budget cuts to pay for it.

Those cuts included plans to forgo some new hires and to put off construction of new facilities – including Catharpin Park in the Gainesville District.

Did Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland (R) conduct himself well? Probably not. However, the rest of the BOCS does not come off well either. Does anyone really think that what appears to be retaliation by Candland’s fellow board members, cutting funds for Catharpin Park, reflects well on the character of the BOCS?

Candland is new, green to the county’s budget process. In addition, he is dealing with public that is sick and tired of the ever growing budgets produced by tax and spend politicians. However, instead of being sympathetic, Candland’s fellow board members reacted with disproportionate hostility. Since Candland asked for a reduced tax rate without suggesting any budget cuts, there was a simple, blunt answer. The county’s revenues must match its budget. Without budget cuts, tax  cuts would result in a deficit. Unlike the Federal Government, the county government must tax as much as it spends.

What the BOCS’ hostility suggests is that the BOCS knows the county’s budget is larger than needed. So BOCS members reacted defensively.

What is the basic headache? We no longer have a philosophy of government that allows ordinary citizens to exercise control over the voracious appetites of big spenders.  Instead, we have allowed our leaders to divide us into competing interest groups. We have learned to:

  • Scream angrily when we don’t get our “fair” share of the spending,
  • Grudging accept tax increases as “inevitable.”
  • Never examine the morality of using government to redistribute the wealth.

Other Sources

Candland Discusses Lowering Taxes at Town Hall Meeting from the BristowBeat describes a town meeting that Candland held the day before Candland’s bad day. For the purposes of clarification, I have excerpted one paragraph.

The first speaker, Jennifer Georgia, a nurse and a mother of five, who home schools her five children spoke out against, “Special interests” and “lobbies for tiny minorities,” and  “educrats,” driving up education cost in the county.

While Georgia opposed Prince William County Schools’ $1.2 billion budget, she estimated that the system systems now spends $15,000 per student, when Prince William actually spent $9,852 per student in 2012. Only Spotsylvania and Stafford counties spent less. She also said that lower class sizes make a significant difference in the quality of education, and sighted that private school students score better on standardized tests. But Prince William teachers in the audience argued the logic of her assumptions. While Georgia opposed Prince William County Schools’ $1.2 billion budget, she estimated that the system systems now spends $15,000 per student, when Prince William actually spent $9,852 per student in 2012. Only Spotsylvania and Stafford counties spent less. She also said that lower class sizes make a significant difference in the quality of education, and sighted that private school students score better on standardized tests. But Prince William teachers in the audience argued the logic of her assumptions.

Georgia is correct. The system spends $15,000 per student. The smaller $9,852 figure reflects the “operating budget”. The operating budget ignores about one-third of the money the school spends. Undoubtedly, the explanation for this “operating budget” has some logic to it. However, when we pay for the public schools, we pay the total cost, not just “operating expenses“. When honestly compared to private schools (total budget versus an “operating budget”), public schools are way overpriced.

Candland’s bad day provides the Gainesville Times‘ view of the events events leading up to the 7 – 1 tax rate, budget vote.

Pr. William raises real estate taxes, passes fiscal ‘13 budget provides the Washington Post‘s view (favoring the tax rate increase, of course).

Prince William passes increased tax rate from InsideNoVA.com provides a starkly barebones summary of events.

Candland: Back Room Dealings Lead to Budget Increase from potomaclocal.com provides a short, but exciting accounting of events.

OPINION: Supervisors should explain their real estate tax increase  provides Supervisor Pete Candland viewpoint.

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