An Auditor’s View: Council Member Hardi–Promoting Propaganda for the School Referendum

  • Peddling Misinformation: The End Justifies Any Means

  • Fiction, More Fiction and Even More Fiction

  • Hardi’s View from the Cloudy Vapors of the Anesthesiology Ward

October 7, 2017

By Ira Kaylin

Kaylin served as a senior auditor for an international banking system and was a member of the Falls Church City Council as well as Co-Chairman of its Budget and Finance Committee

In spite of the faux folksy tone to Letty Hardi’s September 29, blog post, it is in fact a straight-up propaganda piece.

It is complete with misinformation and, now with increasing frequency, misinterpretation of limited information provided.

Take for example the so called good news. Budget revenues appear to be $500,000 above earlier projections—nice but barely enough to cover 1 cent on the tax rate.  With regard to Hardi’s remarks concerning “under spending,”  this can be a problem, not a benefit, if the cause is insufficient staff to implement projects committed to and funded. Her exhortation to buy more in the City, perhaps stated as tongue in cheek, is fatuous.  Sales and meals tax are not a significant component of the City’s budget. This all is “feel good” nonsense that does not underpin the financial wherewithal regarding taking on $120 Million in debt.

The “need to have a serious debate about capital and operating budget, especially operating budgets…” is something that should already have been done and has not been done.

Hardi has thus admitted that we have not had that debate but insists that the Referendum go forward with key questions not having been addressed.

The real issue is that the proposed 6 cent tax increase is just the tip of the iceberg. That increase is BEFORE the annual increase in the school transfer payment which we haven’t seen. We know it will be at least 4%, or over $2 to $2.5 million according to the Superintendent. Some of it will be covered by revenue increases or cuts to City services, but the bulk will be passed on in the form of future tax rate increases.

Hardi’s failure to present the whole picture is part of a program of misinformation.

And Now–The Big Lie

Under the title “Hardi’s Fact vs. Fiction” she states that “…staff has laid out a reasonable financing plan…”

There is NO comprehensive financing plan.

Citizens still have absolutely no idea how we will fund City and School expenses going forward.

The net income of the developable land at GMHS is projected, after ten years of development, to be all of $3.2 million. Yet the Superintendent projects operating costs (mostly teacher and staff) will increase by $30 million during the same period.

This is a Plan?

What Hardi has done is to focus solely on capital expenses in isolation. Staff has figured out a way to take the remaining water system sale money, extend the term of the debt and run down Fund Balance to make the tax rate increase seem more bearable.

That is the sum and substance of the City’s financing plan.

Direct Comments and Questions to Council Member Hardi

Ms. Hardi: When you ran for office you explicitly claimed the Fund Balance was too high and needed to be reduced. Since you claimed to be a finance person, I publicly asked you many times, in articles and blogs, to explain your reasoning especially for a City 70% dependent on residential taxes.  You never responded.

I challenge you to show us one single comprehensive financing plan that covers City and School needs for the next ten years. Yes, the City does prepare Five Year CIP projections. That has been standard practice, so why do you bring it up now?

To even obliquely hint that we have a financing plan is a lie–and a BIG LIE.

It appears that Mary Beth Connelly’s Mr. Magoo approach to financial management–taking a big leap of faith without being able to see where we are going–dominates the Council’s approach to managing the City’s finances.

In sum Ms. Hardi, show us your financial plan.

9 Comments on "An Auditor’s View: Council Member Hardi–Promoting Propaganda for the School Referendum"

  1. I have a NO sign to the school bond located on the ends of my property. For 2 days now someone has removed them. Is this indicative of how the YES group supports their ideas? I do not fear your goals or your desires however, I do dislike your methods of opposing ours. Is it against the law to remove political signs from personal property when approved by the owner? If your issue is so “right” why do you need to stoop to these type of activities to argue your points? Let’s have a fair and professional debate concerning this issue and not follow the examples of our representatives in WDC. Thank you

  2. I asked at the Council candidates forum what Plan B was should the citizens not approve taking on $120million debt. Ms Connellys answer was there is no fallback plan we would probably spend 70 million in what we know is inadequate renovation. Unacceptable lack of planning but those who say do are demonized as not supporting schools!

  3. If my recall is accurate, it was Clemens who is credited with a phrase akin to “there’s lies, damn lies and statistics.” IMHO, there are multiple resonable analyses of the bond issue by credible professionals. My decision, however, hinges on what I observe and my personal life experience.
    I have seen that the city is renovating 1 of 3 schools and has created obligations to do significant improvements to our city hall and library very soon. From life experience, I know it is challenging to do your work and successfully do another activity, like run a business, or lead a big and busy volunteer group, or undergo large construction projects. Some people and groups are able to do this well and others are not. Do I believe our community is able to successfully undertake these projects as they are planned? My own arbitrary standard for success is 80 percent. Do I think we can accomplish this, an 80 percent satisfaction rate, when all is done?

  4. From R. Winters
    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Technically the $120 million bond issue is out of the hands of the City Council. It is now up to voters to decide at the tiem of the November 7, Referendum.

    There are a number of residents who believe that the Referendum should be turned down so that we could do a much better job of providing various options for needed facility improvements at a much lower cost and risk. What we need is independent analysis. What we have are consultants whose scope and conclusions have been predetermined by the contractors of the studies, the School Board.

    As to the alleged urgency please recall the Mt. Daniel Referendum was rushed through due, in part, to the lack of an adequate sprinkler system. Two plus years later and over 20% cost overrun there is still, to the best of my knowledge, no sprinkler system and not one word of concern from the School Board. Not surprising since the cause of the delay was due to the School Board.

    Given the School Board’s proven track record of administrative failure it is almost certain that Mt. Daniel will look like a well executed project compared to the sure to fail, GMHS project. The credibility of the School Board on these issues is poor.

    Please look for an upcoming Post article which will highlight some of the expected problems.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to write Ira. These are difficult times and difficult decisions. What course of action do you think we could ask Council to take to provide adequate and safe facilities for our HS students? I HONESTLY don’t know which way to vote yet!

  6. John E. Leimone | October 8, 2017 at 8:00 pm | Reply

    This comment is from a concerned citizen of 33 years, who has maintained a deep interest in this City, its character and the well being of its citizens.

    Although Ira focuses his very valid comments on clever propaganda that Council member Hardi has been propagating, it is typical of the “Falls Church Way” that the Oligarchy that controls this City uses on a regular basis to maintain political control. To be specific, on matters of important policy, the “Falls Church Way” involves making available only superficial information from official sources that is massaged to give misleading and sometimes false information to manipulate public opinion to desired ends. When a concerned citizen tries to obtain pertinent information that should be readily available to any interested citizen to clarify or refute disinformation, that person often runs into a wall of obfuscation, generalities and reliance on charges for FOIA requests.

    Two cases in point are relevant to the November referendum, which in my 33 years residency constitutes the most critical issue ever faced regarding the longer financial viability of Falls Church, its continued political independence, and its very nature and character.
    First, although the City has a website devoted specifically to the referendum, the documents available at that location are extremely superficial and links to more detailed information are not available. On the related issue of finances, although the 2017-18 budget was approved in April of this year, it still has not been posted on the website nearly 6 months later
    The search function on the site is extremely poor.
    Second, since the “upgrading” of the FCCPS website, it is almost impossible to find concrete information relevant to this existential referendum issue, including information that could be more readily obtained prior to the upgrading. I find the search function completely useless.

  7. Mark: Sam: Ira: John: Don’t bother with the Pelton’s and his fellow travelers. They cannot even act in their own self-interest and that of their children. They want to belong to the group so bad that they simply sell out to political correctness Falls Church style. And Duncan is always there with his developer buddies cutting another bad deal for the city.

  8. I stated this previously and in other venues. Speaking of Ms. Hardi, I found her July 24th blog, where in her own words, she voiced serious concerns about a bond referendum in the amount of $120 million to be quite persuasive. Anyone on the fence about how to vote, should check out what she said. She laid out an excellent case for voting NO to such a huge amount and that you can be a supporter of a good school system and facilities, but yet vote NO to a $120 million.

  9. Ira Kaylin speaks the truth. The promoters of the super-sized $120M bond have no financial plan, no apparent risk analysis, etc. Promotion of this $120M bond is act of financial malfeasance.

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