MAN ABOUT TOWN: Why Things Won’t Get Any Better

Falls Church Times Columnist

March 15, 2010

Back when my business card read “International Economist,” I was painfully aware how much less I knew about the dismal science than such a lofty title implied. But it really didn’t matter if I was dumb as a stump, because when I made interventions at U.N. conferences, everything I said was pre-ordained by government policy. Not facts, not logic, not reality – just government policy. And so it is today in the Little City.

Politics is like religion – you have to have faith. “Fear not – believe only, and Falls Church will be saved.”  This is the dogma being preached on high – by City Council, the School Board, the “newspaper of record,” and pretty much everyone else who bothers to make their thoughts public. The argument goes like this:

— Falls Church is a special place to live, a wonderful place to raise a family, and a great place to send your kids to school.

— The recession is causing the City to raise taxes and cut services.

— When the recession is over, the City will again be “made whole.”

— Anyone who fails to “believe” obviously hates Falls Church.

That’s the dogma, and don’t let the facts get in the way. But what if we could look at the economics behind the City’s past, present, and future? What if dollars and demographics could be discussed dispassionately? What story would be told? Maybe something like this:

For the first 40 years of its existence (1948-88), things were pretty much the same in little Falls Church as in areas just across our borders. Then, sometime around 25 years ago, the effects of the great demographic shift began to be felt. Fomented by the economic collapse in Mexico, the Salvadoran civil war, and a local construction boom, Latino immigrants began pouring into the area, many settling inside the Beltway in 1950s apartment houses that no longer attracted native English speakers. The immigrants worked hard and supported large families, and the percentage of non-native-speaking students in the schools doubled, trebled, and quadrupled over time.

My own kids attended school in Mexico, where most of their fellow students were Hispanic, and Barbados, where most of them were black. So they were used to being in the minority. But after moving to Lake Barcroft in Fairfax County in 1993 I was taken aback when my 7th-grade daughter’s science teacher told me it was pretty much impossible to teach the subject matter when “half the children don’t understand that much English.” That was at Glasgow Middle School. I don’t know what the demographics were back then, but in 2009, only 1 in 4 students at Glasgow was non-Hispanic white, and over half of all students were classified “limited English proficient.”

Meanwhile, north of Hillwood Avenue in the economically privileged City of Falls Church, there’s another middle school named Mary Ellen Henderson.  Wonder what the demographics are there? Statistics from 2008 indicate that of a total of 446 students, only 49 had limited English proficiency. That’s 11 percent. Where would you prefer your children to be learning science (or any subject besides Spanish)?

And so, no great surprise, the school population in the City of Falls Church is growing. In 1985 the City had 1,101 students. For 2010, exactly 25 years later, the estimate is nearly double — 2,034 students. During the same period, the City’s overall population grew about 17 percent.

Is an international economist needed to connect the dots? And now the Washington Post’s education writer has ranked Falls Church City Schools #1 in the greater Washington area. How many more students will that attract?

So, as our chests swell with pride over our schools, only a “hater” would point out that the 2011 proposed schools budget consumes 43 percent of City income – and that doesn’t include $3.5 million debt service. Add that, and you’re right around 50 percent for education. And what happens when we have to build a new school?  The City’s capital improvements schedule lists $31 million for school construction/major renovation only two years from now. But that’s just fiction – actual costs will be two or three times that. The City picked that number because it is the maximum that can be borrowed under its debt policy limit. Governments don’t like to let facts get in the way.

None of the above has anything to do with recession or recovery. It has everything to do with demographics. When it costs $19,000 to educate one student for one year, when students comprise a growing percentage of the overall City population, and when residential property tax funds a growing portion of the City’s budget, something has got to give.

On March 11 the City noted that the Fund Balance (that’s like your checking account balance) has fallen from $15 million in 2006 to $1.3 million today. We are going broke.

But hey – keep the faith, baby.

March 15, 2010 


30 Responses to “MAN ABOUT TOWN: Why Things Won’t Get Any Better”

  1. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on March 15th, 2010 12:43 am

    I’m not a big fan of people who complain without suggesting solutions. George, I assume your solution is to make Falls Church part of Arlington – but let me know if you have other ideas.

  2. Dorie Southern on March 15th, 2010 7:00 am

    I have an idea Andy. Why don’t we all go to Washington (like Mr. Smith) on March 20 and tell President Obama that we don’t want to kill any more babies in Afghanistan — one solder costs one million dollars — BRING THEM HOME!

  3. Larry, Falls Church on March 15th, 2010 7:52 am

    Anyone with any powers of observation and elementary school math skills can tell you its the overflow of illegal aliens who brought the house of cards crashing down. No Tax base can absorb a 250 percent increase in tax burdens added on top of an aging and retiring or retired tax base. Maybe these people work hard but the money is sent home in remittances and the immigrants draw more in social services than they pay in. Ask anyone working in the health care field how much of the bill is sent back to tax payers when Juanita’s Id was fake her child birth medical bills are due.

  4. David Newhall on March 15th, 2010 8:42 am

    Fairfax County spends 54% of its budget on education. 43% looks pretty good to me.

    Hysteria doesn’t seem a very admirable response to the biggest downturn since the Great Depression. Every local government will be damaged, but we are better off than many. At the moment we have a reasonably sober, rational, adult city government that appears to be addressing this crisis in a sober, rational, adult way.

  5. Heather, Falls Church on March 15th, 2010 9:51 am

    Excellent write-up. I don’t see a solution, though. When the economy turns around we’ll only see a greater influx of illegals.

  6. David Chavern on March 15th, 2010 11:31 am

    Sorry, but your thesis makes no sense. I believe that the City schools had a bigger population of students in the 1970’s than they do today. (The school population significantly dipped in the 1980’s.) Fluctuation in our school population has not at all been corrolated with immigration trends — either legal or illegal.

    Saying, “can we afford our schools?” is a fair and fundamental question. Blaming immigrants for our rising school costs is both strange and deeply misguided.

  7. Steve Lethbridge on March 15th, 2010 12:42 pm

    You are nothing if not consistent George. This latest rant seals your claim to the title of Falls Church’s own “Dr. Doom”. I choose Hope rather than the fear and intolerance your posts bring out in the locals. Our Little City is filled with intelligent, tolerant, and involved citizens who work hard every day to make this such a wonderful place to live and yes pay taxes. We have great kids who attend great schools and parents who are moving here every day in search of a better future for their pre schoolers and children yet to be born. We have dedicated public servants and volunteers who do their best in paid and volunteer capacities to teach, coach, mentor and minister to those in their midst.
    By the way the housing inventory here is at its lowest level since ’05 and the city has no trouble attracting newcomers who want to live here. So I’ll keep those who live in fear and identify themselves only by first (real?) names in my prayers and continue to be grateful for what we have and optimistic about our future!

  8. Charles Hansen Falls Church on March 15th, 2010 3:23 pm

    “Larry” – I’m perplexed by what your powers of observation and “better than elementary school” math skills seem to be telling you: Your claim that “Maybe these people work hard but the money is sent home in remittances and the immigrants draw more in social services than they pay in,” is flat-out wrong.

    The truth is that undocumented immigrants pay far more in taxes than they can ever hope to recoup in benefits. How do I know this? One key indicator is the millions of W-2 forms with mismatched names and Social Security numbers that the Social Security Administration receives every year. In 2004, for example, the IRS said the W-2 forms with invalid Social Security numbers reported about $53 billion in wages and about three-fourths of that, $40 billion in wages, had taxes withheld.

    Here’s more from a 2008 USA Today article:

    “The IRS also has been issuing Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs, for 12 years to foreigners without a Social Security number. It’s believed that many workers who seek the ITINs are in the country illegally, and the IRS reported that there were 2.5 million tax returns filed with an ITIN in 2004.

    In 2006, then IRS Commission Mark Everson told Congress that “many illegal aliens, utilizing ITINs, have been reporting tax liability to the tune of almost $50 billion from 1996 to 2003.”

    An IRS spokesman said more recent figures aren’t available.

    The Social Security and Medicare taxes from mismatched W2s for the same period was $41.4 billion, Hinkle said.

    That adds up to roughly $90 billion in federal taxes during they eight-year period.”

    And that doesn’t even include state and local taxes paid.

    One last quote from Social Security’s Mark Hinkle:

    “Overall, any type of immigration is a net positive to Social Security.”

    I’d argue that immigration is a net positive across the board. My infant grandfather emigrated to the United States from Denmark in 1903. My Irish and German ancestors did the same in earlier years. Each came for the unique opportunities that America offered to create better lives for them and their families. They sometimes suffered persecution like my Irish Catholic ancestors did during the Anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia of 1844.

    I categorically reject George Southern’s thesis that Falls Church as an independent city is doomed to failure because there are more immigrants living in or near our borders. This type of anti-immigrant, nativist thinking is as wrong-headed now as it was in 1844 Philadelphia.

  9. George Southern (Falls Church City) on March 15th, 2010 3:37 pm

    For the record, what I wrote in this column has nothing to do with illegal immigration — nor does it have anything to do with immigrant children attending Falls Church City Schools. My point was that children with limited knowledge of English now constitute a significant percentage — sometimes a majority — of students in Fairfax County schools next door to the City of Falls Church. This phenomenon reduces the level of instruction in the classroom and is driving a number of parents who can afford it to locate in Falls Church City specifically because the school demographic is dramatically different here than across the county line. That is a fact, although anyone who dares say it will be criticized (ask me). And in response to Mr. Chavern’s comment that FC CIty Schools had larger populations in the 1970s, as a baby boomer myself I am well aware of that. In those days teachers hardly earned a living wage, the schools had neither carpet nor air conditioning, class size was larger, and costs were a fraction of what they are today. I do appreciate that folks take the time to read my column and to comment, although I can not resist noting that some of the comments mirror almost to the point of parody my four bullet points at the beginning of the column.

  10. David Chavern on March 15th, 2010 7:02 pm

    I get it. Your saying that immigration (legal or illegal) caused people to move to Falls Church for the schools (dare I say “white flight”). My view — that is ridiculous and not supported by the evidence. Was the school population jump in the 1970’s caused by immigration? I am going to guess no and, even more importantly, the school population drop in the 1980’s corresponded with a significant increase in immigrant populations in the area. That is more than a small data problem for your thesis.

    As to your point that schools were cheaper in the 1970’s, that may be so — but so what? What does that have to do with immigration — and what does it have to do with the fact that schools are expensive everywhere in the area (including Fairfax and Arlington)? Blaming our financial problems on immigration is way, way off base.

    I don’t care whether you are a “believer” or not — I still find your post to be strange and deeply misguided.

  11. Dreamingin22046 on March 15th, 2010 7:41 pm

    My experience over the years with immigrant children who end up attending Falls Church City schools is that it most often happens by accident rather than design. The families are often unaware that they are moving into a small, exclusive school district until after the fact. Not always, because some of these families move here for the wonderful schools just as other families do, but often it is chance that lands them within our boundaries.

    One result of this is that the children founder a bit, initially finding few in their peer group to bond with, although they do benefit from an intensive effort to teach them English and to educate them by our schools. Another result is that the SOL test scores among those whose first language is not English are at issue. Yet another result is that, once they realize where they live, many families move into Fairfax or Arlington neighborhoods and school districts that they are more comfortable with, and typically can also easier afford to live in. Meaning that many non-English speakers prefer to live near, and for their children to attend school with, others in a similar circumstance so that they will feel less “different”.

    I think the numbers of English as a second language students in FCC schools are not significant enough to consider it a crisis situation or even a problem. Although educating these students does represent a challenge for any school district, it does not bog our school system down to a degree that could be considered a source for our most recent budget crisis.

    I, for one, welcome the diversity these students bring to our community. I’d say they should be at least as welcome as the State Department enclave up at Oakwood and the families with students eligible for special ed services who move here because they have heard through the grapevine of the wonderful services we provide.

  12. Ralph McGehee Charleston, SC on March 16th, 2010 12:13 am

    “On March 11 the City noted that the Fund Balance (that’s like your checking account balance) has fallen from $15 million in 2006 to $1.3 million today”.

    And what was the name again of that so called “civic organization” that has been running the city government during that time?

    Wow! Great job!

  13. Gabriel Southern, Santa Cruz, CA on March 16th, 2010 1:39 am

    I suppose that the process of writing a newspaper column lends itself to a certain style. As I read this I felt it was something that Thomas Friedman could have written. Not in the substance of course-as Friedman’s latest column suggested that Biden should have responded to Israel’s latest expansion into the West Bank by precipitously cutting short his visit to Israel-but rather in the simplicity of analysis.

    You inadvertently touched a nerve with the many people who unreasonably blame the problems that the government faces on immigrants; and while I happen to disagree with your analysis I don’t want to focus on that. Instead I want to comment on the idea that education is something that should be valued by society. You note that Falls Church spends 43% of its budget on education. I will note that the federal government spends nearly 60% of its discretionary budget on the military. I always find it ironic when people want to cut spending on things like education and social services but can’t imagine cutting spending on war, prisons, police. California used to provide an essentially free college education for its residents, but during the past 30 years that has been stripped away while state spending on prisons has increased enormously. I’m not sure if has happened yet, but the state is on track to spend more on prisons than on education soon.

    Ironically you inadvertently made the case for the very reason that people want Falls Church to remain an independent city. Although in the past you have advocated for incorporating Falls Church in Arlington it is obvious that if this were to happen that the residents of Falls Church would lose some degree of control over the Falls Church schools. The larger bureaucracy would invariably reduce the amount of influence that Falls Church residents would have on their children’s education.

    One other thing I will add is that in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan few would have predicted that their empire would crumble just 10 years later. In 2001 the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and two years later the U.S. invaded Iraq. The direct costs of this has already exceeded $1 trillion dollars, and the indirect costs are many times more. The U.S. federal debt is $12 trillion, and he current annual federal deficit is around $1.7 trillion. Falls Church may have a problem with a $1.3 million balance sheet, but the problems at the federal level are at least a million times worse. So if I were to worry about 2011, my concern would be that we will be entering our tenth year of war in Afghanistan rather than that education might consume more than 50 percent of the Falls Church City budget.

  14. Dudley McDonald Mechanicsville, VA on March 16th, 2010 11:18 am

    Call it “the Falls Church Way” as the primary blame. Simple fact, folks WANT TO LIVE in the City of Falls Church for numerous reasons — schools, city size, location, etc. All good (and valid) reasons. FCCity always ‘paid the way’ for excellence — when it was more of a bargain and there were fewer demands on the tax dollars. I know this to be true because I was teaching at the time when funds were ‘less limited’ (1970s). (Even student sponsored fund raisers were discouraged much of the time — community image issues?) But make no mistake, there was plenty of discussion within the community about ‘merger’ with Fairfax or Arlington Counties, too. Obviously, the Little City forces prevailed.

    Times have changed and CHANGE has its challenges. The growth of GOVERNMENT services (all kinds) has increased and thus the costs of it. Much of that growth was predicated on the community’s willingness and ability to pay to match its political views about the role of goverment. When all was economically rosy, “no problemo”. But now??? FCCity is no longer immune to financial problems and difficult choices have to be made.

    Good luck to all decision makers and tax payers in The Little City!

    Note to Progressives: Don’t always blame war/military costs for all the nation’s financial ills. Considered all the “underfunded/unfunded liability” entitlement programs for once! That would be like blaming the FCCity Police Department for all the financial issues facing the city. Despite best efforts, there is no free lunch!!

    (By the way, Hanover County is dealing with very similar issues along with every other community in the Commonwealth. CCCity is not alone as a Woe is Me community!!! )

  15. Damien Jones on March 16th, 2010 11:55 am

    Mr. McDonald has a point about the growth of government only to a point. The City side of the government is down to bare bones while the school side of the budget equation stays virtually the same from year to year. How many school employees are “retiring early”? I am a firm believer that the Falls Church Schools exist so that Falls Church residents can send their children to a “private” public school. Wake up to the fact that a city this size cannot support a school system like the one we have. Its been great but it is time to make some hard choices about whether we want our trash picked up or 11 national merit finalists.

  16. Richard Fredenburg, Garner, NC on March 16th, 2010 12:33 pm

    Just a little perspective. I attended George Mason Jr.-Sr. High School from fall 1961 to spring 1967, grades 7-12. Seems like the GM enrollment was about 1000. Certainly the 3 elementary schools for the city at that time would have had another 1000 for grades 1-6. So, the total school population in the 60s would have been at least 2000. Did the student enrollment really drop to half in 1985?

    And a little more perspective, George C. Marshall High School (grades 9-12), just up the road and one of the newest high schools in Fairfax, had 2500 students. Is that what they have now?

  17. Peggy Monahan, Falls Church on March 16th, 2010 1:10 pm

    Mr. Rankin: You don’t need to assume George’s solution, he’s stated it many times, succinctly and coherently. This is an editorial about how he perceives our current fiscal crisis, and he doesn’t have to remind us with each and every article what his solution is. If you don’t care for his solution, that’s not the same thing as not having one, which is the charge your first sentence made.

    “Larry:” No need to demean those who disagree with you that “the overflow of illegal aliens… brought the house of cards crashing down” by accusing them of having zero powers of observation and pre-school math skills. Alienating people is not going to advance your position.

    Mr. Lethbridge: Your 3rd and 4th sentences directly contradict each other! Are “the locals” fearful and intolerant, or “intelligent, tolerant, and involved?” And George’s “rant?” Where exactly do you find him “speaking or declaiming extravagantly or violently; talking in a wild or vehement way?”

    George: I didn’t hear anyone taking issue with your last 3 paragraphs; they seem to be majoring on the minor points of your editorial rather than your main summation. I enjoy and respect your writing: keep it coming!

  18. Charlie Anderson, City of Falls Church on March 16th, 2010 1:18 pm

    Damien: I’ll take the merit finalists and pay as I throw on the trash pick up.
    Dudley: The lack of cuts in the police/sheriff departments and their spend freely policies on equipment (see mustang, motorcycles) in the face of a tightening budget all around them does actually put a bit of blame on them. They shouldn’t be spending just because they have the money – the schools on the other hand have given money back in recent years.

  19. Victoria Kwasiborski (Falls Church City) on March 16th, 2010 2:12 pm

    I’ll leave it to others to determine what constitutes a problem or a crisis with respect to the percentage of ESOL students in the school system, but for those who like numbers, the first is the ESOL student percentage, and the second is the percentage of the general fund going to the schools (below). Around the region, the percentage of school budgets spent on ESOL programs more or less averages around 3, meaning that our school system probably spends less on ESOL students than do most of our neighbors.

    Manassas 29% 49%
    Arlington County 18% 37%
    Alexandria 17% 31%
    Prince William 15% 48%
    Fairfax County 12% 54%
    Falls Church City 12% 42%
    Loudoun 6% 47%

    For me, the return on the 42% investment is evident in the highest regional percentage of seniors taking the SAT (78%), the highest regional SAT scores (1712), and the highest percentage of graduates who continue their education (98%). Now, about the other 58% of my investment…

  20. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on March 16th, 2010 2:56 pm

    Peggy, I didn’t suggest George didn’t have a solution – I just wanted to confirm that it’s the same solution he’s suggested before. I get that this is an editorial – and my comment was my editorial on his editorial. I’m not even calling George a hater. My point is just what I originally stated – that I’m not a big fan of people who complain without suggesting solutions. George hasn’t responded so I assume my original assumption was right (that’s a lot of assuming!).

    I will say that George’s solution wouldn’t work for me (note I said “for me” – it sounds like it would work for others) because I live in Falls Church so my kids can go to a small, public school system. If Falls Church became part of Arlington County that wouldn’t be the case (and I suppose I would consider living somewhere else).

    Also, I’ve talked to George about his strategy for writing these kinds of posts. I know that at least one reason he does it is because they get a lot of comments and page views (more than his other, less controversial topics) – which he values (I guess). I’m not even sure if George really wants Falls Church to become part of Arlington County or if this is just his strategy for getting people to think really hard about the City’s budget and what we need to do to survive.

    Does anyone know a good source for City data? I can track down population stats and I’ve found one document that shows school enrollment by year since 1985 (used in a previous post of FCT). I’d love to see what the school budgets were for each year since 1985 and also what the City’s budget by year has been.

    Data like that would be interesting to poke around with. One thing that might be interesting to look at is the growth of City spending over time (with relatively flat population numbers) relative to the growth of school spending over time (with increasing enrollment numbers – although apparently at or lower than 1970s numbers).

    GEORGE SOUTHERN RESPONDS: The more I read Andy’s comments, the more I learn about myself. Any more questions, folks, just refer them to Mr. Rankin.

  21. Jeff Marcus, Fairfax County on March 16th, 2010 7:19 pm

    If you want to control how many students enter the City’s highly rated school system, is it not possible to levy a hefty surcharge for the privilege? If it’s a “private school” atmosphere some parents are after, why not ask them to pay for it? I think folks without kids find the City attractive as well, for its location amidst multiple commuting routes, proximity to Metro, and the comforting “idea” of living in a defined city rather than an amorphous region or county. As for the trash pick-up thing…when I was a teenager living in McLean, we used to bring our trash and recycling to Cooper Middle school on Saturdays, where the trucks were lined up for us to throw our debris. We had no curbside pick-up. Not sure if that is a viable solution to minimize monies spent on that service, but it worked for us in 1979.There’s also clearly money to be saved in the Police Dept. (as stated by others) and elsewhere in the budget I’m sure. It’s time to tighten the belt everywhere. And if I were King, I’d knock off any money spent on consultants, and “branding experts” (never understood the need for that, considering that people already want to live in the City.) Let the City’s highly-educated residents find solutions. They are more than capable.

  22. Ron Peppe (Falls Church) on March 16th, 2010 7:54 pm

    Victoria raises some good points with the comparative metrics on the schools and budget. If anyone wants to dig deeper to see what they are getting for the money (and yes, I know the money comes out of all of our pockets, and that we each value these things differently), here is a very useful tool FCCPS set up. It is evolving, but the goal was to provide an easier way to see the results for each of the areas the school board focused on as priorities.

  23. Dreamingin22046 on March 16th, 2010 9:19 pm

    Ron -Question: On the FCCPS metrics page, one may access the VDOE Report Card information for each school. There is info for 2008-2009 on our metrics page for most categories, except not for information about teacher qualifications. In that category our info is only shown through the 2007-2008 year, even though there is info on the VDOE page through 2008-2009. I can find info data from 2008-2009 on the metrics report card page for some of our schools, but not others. I totally don’t get this, since the info is complete, up to 2008-2009 on the VDOE website.

  24. Susan Carr on March 16th, 2010 11:09 pm

    I’m looking for data, which I couldn’t find on the FCC website for budget issues. Please let me know if it is there and I missed it. Specifically, I’m interested in:

    What is the total FY 2010 assessed value of commercial real estate property? What is the commercial property tax rate? If not a single rate, how is the tax structured?

    What is the FY 2010 total assessed value of residential real estate property, broken out by single-family, townhouses, and condos? Are the tax rates for these residential properties proposed the same?

  25. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on March 17th, 2010 12:42 am

    Susan, there was a February 1st news release from the City that might contain some of the info you’re looking for. I’m not sure of the best place to find the release though, sorry.

    I do know one answer for sure – in the City of Falls Church commercial and residential property is taxed at the same rate (which currently is $1.07 per $100 of assessed value but has been proposed to increase to $1.27).

  26. Ron Peppe (Falls Church City) on March 17th, 2010 7:44 am

    I will have to check on the VDOE data. The site was supposed to be programmed to automatically pull the data, so that if would not take a lot of time to maintain (It was created in house, and there is only one web person at FCCPS). I will let you know what I find out.


  27. Ron Peppe (Falls Church City) on March 17th, 2010 4:36 pm

    Ok, we checked and found out that VDOE updated their website sometime between Thursday and Friday last week. I am told we have fixed the connection so that the data now maps to the most current information directly from VDOE. There is still some ongoing work with individual data elements that we are working on. The one challenge with linking to live data is keeping current when the source changes the location!


  28. Dan Maller, City of Falls Church on March 17th, 2010 10:32 pm

    Susan, with limited exceptions the Virginia Constitution requires all property to be assessed at the same rate and based on market value. We do have authority for a commercial surtax that both Arlington and Fairfax charge @10-11¢ extra on commercial property to support transportation. Our total tax base is just over $3 Billion, of which about 24% or $700M is classified as commercial other than apartments. There are 2,405 SF Homes averaging ~$600k or about (just under) one half of the whole tax base ($1.5 Billion). There are 556 TH units and 1,075 Condos as well as 1,468 apartment units. If the Condos average ~$400k that contributes $0.43B and THs @ ~$400k would be another $0.22B. Apartments are approximately $0.16B, and this adds up to pretty close to the total of $3.04B in spite of my crude guesstimations.

    As far as George’s thesis, I think he clearly needs more cool-aid. Seriously, the entire world economy hit a wall caused by rampant greed and speculation, but our Little City depends on two very stable things: the demand for K-12 education and the local job market, both of which remain relatively strong. The General Fund Balance @ 6/30/2010 is expected to be more like $4 million, not $1.3M, mainly because of the proposed real estate tax increase which would bring in $3M in the current fiscal year, and this number would be about $5M at 6/30/11, approximately 8% of the annual budget, which is the minimum level under the City’s fiscal policies. And also, your data about spending per student is outdated.

    While we are all feeling financial stress, this remains a competitive and desirable place to live, lacking perhaps only a few more immigrants from far away places like Vienna or Herndon, or even Prince William, Loudoun or other places outside the bubble, at the ragged edges of civilization where they have experienced this recession more fully.

  29. George Southern (Falls Church City) on March 17th, 2010 11:20 pm

    Councilman Maller (Dan) — I think we need to have a drink together, and you can pick which flavor Kool-Aid.

    You state above that “The General Fund Balance @ 6/30/2010 is expected to be more like $4 million, not $1.3M.” I got the $1.3 million figure from page 13 of the March 11 report by the City’s Chief Financial Officer:

    It is true that the higher that City Council raises taxes, the higher the Fund Balance will be. But the $1.3 million figure is the present reality, while your $4 million figure is based on a yet-to-be-decided tax hike.

    You state above that my “data about spending per student is outdated.” I used the number $19,000, which rounds the actual figure of $18,788. That figure is for this school year, and was supplied to me by the Director of Communications for the City Schools on November 20, 2009, and it is contained in the current “Fast Facts” page on the Schools website:

    Indeed, I have recently heard a figure closer to $16,000 mentioned in official meetings. I surmise, and perhaps you can verify, that the higher figure includes the debt service cost for MEH Middle School, and the lower figure does not. It suggests to me that someone has decided that $18,788 is too high a figure to publicize, and so has come up with a lower figure that does not include the total cost of education. If we are not going to include the cost of school buildings in the figure, why not leave out the cost of teacher salaries as well? Then the figure would be even lower. Pass the Kool-Aid, please.

  30. Barry Buschow on March 18th, 2010 2:34 pm

    Just a note, the largest GM class was 1966. I need to check my year book but believe that class was around 180 students. My class 1967 was 156. In the mid 1980s the city actually began recruiting families into the city because the student population was so low. Housing started to turn over in the early 1990s. People actually retired in their homes so not much turn over till recently. Perhaps Dr, Pace, sup of schools in the 1980s, can be consulted on the exact numbers, as I am not sure the schools keep alot of history. Ron is that true?

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