Forcing a Square “Financial” Peg Into a Round “Financial” Hole
Development Revenues Would Not Cover Bond Service Charges
City Generated Financial Data Shows Risk and Contrivance
By Sam Mabry
Mabry is a former Falls Church City Council Vice Mayor
September 26, 2017
It is a reasonable expectation that when a community plans to commit a $120 Million for a new facility, that the least risky financial path should be selected in order to insure the most secure educational future for our children—especially the youngest now or soon to be in our school rooms.
More specifically, the entire focus would be on insuring the long term educational welfare of the children—ample funds for teacher and staff salaries—rather that saddling the city with 30 years of restricting debt.
Not this time.
City Leaders Decide Voters Cannot Be Trusted to Make the “Right” Choice
Financially more favorable alternatives to repair, replace and remodel George Mason were discarded without serious evaluation by the School Board and Council Members who cavalierly decided to deny our citizens an opportunity for choice in the voting booth.
The evidence that the members of the City Council and School Board chose the riskiest financial path rests in their own documentation and words: In short, it’s hiding in plain sight.
Referendum Built on a Sand Pile of Financial Assumptions and Distortions
- It’s Not 10 Acres of Developable Land–After streets, curbs, gutters and sidewalks are dedicated, the parcel will be closer to eight acres, or a 20 percent reduction is developable land with an attendant negative impact of net revenue to the city.
- A $40 Million Land Sale Price Is Optimistic for 10 Acres–According to the City Assessor’s documentation commercially zoned land in the city has a market value of $2.5+ an acre.
School Population is Dynamic—Not Static
The student growth assumptions underpinning the referendum is that the school population will continue to grow unabated for the next 15 years after showing substantial gains for the previous 37 years. In 1964, our schools had some 2,000 students but as a result of demographic changes that number dropped to 1,000 by 1980. No trend lasts forever and the Council and School Board are essentially asking the voters to accept that it does.
In that regard, recent demographic data for Northern Virginia suggests that populations and student growth may once again be slowing.
Choosing the Most Favorable Financial Assumptions–and the Attendant Risk
Notwithstanding that the school budget—mostly for teachers and staff—has grown by more than 5-6% over the last several years, the Superintendent calculated his operating budget over the next 10 years at a growth rate of 4%.
And then, at the end of that 10 year projection, the Superintendent opines that school system would require an additional $30 Million over and above the annual 4% budget growth to meet operational needs.
On Election Day
The data seem clear: If, on the basis of the city’s financial capacity, and the Council and School Board’s lack of candor and forthrightness, you place the educational quality in the classroom for your children ahead of $120 Million of bricks and mortar, you will not support the referendum.
More to come….