Citizens gathered this past Sunday in the GMHS auditorium for another Q&A session on the referendum. The session began with a pitch for a new school from Peter Noonan, Superintendent of Schools, citing research that indicates better outcomes for students with high ceilings and better ventilation. This was followed by financing details by City Manager Wyatt Shields. School Board candidates Greg Anderson, Alison Kutchma, Richard Crispin, Shannon Litton and Shawna Russell were in attendance. Good questions were posed and more back up and tax implication information was requested. FACTS will post the information requested when it becomes available. The session was videotaped.
Click here for the GMHS presentation by Dr. Noonan and Mr. Shields on September 10.
This is the handout on GMHS Commercial Development Strategic Road Map.
Click here for all the GMHS options with costs.
There is little over a month to study the information before the vote is taken November 7th.
I attended the meeting where the Superintendent and City Manager indicated that they will be neutral on the presentations – present just factual information about all the options.
Wrong. It was an infomercial by Dr. Noonan indicating we need high ceilings and extra light in order to get better educational outcomes. Ludicrous.
I will give credit to Mr. Shields for being more forthcoming on the risks associated with taking on extraordinary debt: it puts Falls Church City in a very risky situation as compared to all other jurisdictions – almost $14,000 debt per capita. Not per family, per individual in the city. That is frightening.
We have seen cities like Bristol, Petersburg and Manassas Park have serious budget issues that have long term consequences.
There are alternatives. But the city and schools have not released the data on the alternatives yet. Let’s minimize the financial risk and also update the school to meet growing enrollment. Let’s consider that apartments are contributing to enrollment and put a hold on those projects. Less kids = less space = less teachers = lower costs.
If we want the data made easily available to the public, citizens have to contact Staff and the City Manager and request it Now! Posting the data
Nov 8th won’t help.
As I said in response to your comment on another thread I have requested that information and I will share when I get my hands on it.
I think what has been presented on the impact on the tax rate is not completely forthcoming and rather misleading. How do others see it? Here is a summary of my interpretation if the referendum passes and depending on economic development at the WFC site.
BEST CASE: 4 cent increase which will happen in Year 1. BUT, this will carryover to Year 2 and beyond because there is debt service (I think estimated at $7,4 million per year). And, this 4 cents ONLY covers the annual debt service and does not cover increased operating costs of schools and non-schools. So, you know the tax rate increase will be higher than 4 cents
WORST CASE: The above BUT with a 15 cent increase.
I think the Power Point presentation had one slide dedicated to this and, at least to me, one could erroneously conclude that it is a one time increase that will involve just one year. Am I missing something?
Dale, My understanding is if the referendum passes we will have an immediate 4 cent increase to start collecting for the bond costs. The 4 cent increase does not include any other funding that may be needed for the schools. So, if the schools say they need additional funding or the city needs additional funding we will pay 4 cents plus whatever additional is needed. The 4 cents is there forever and any additional increases will be added on to the new baseline.
They have to actively market and sell the land for the price they think they can get for it – $40-45 million. So, the tax rate could go up if it doesn’t sell quickly or for the price they are asking.
The entire project is risky financially and is outlined in Wyatt Shield’s presentation.
The worst case is scary and could happen. 15 cents in addition to increased operational costs that happen every year could be enough to drive people away from the city.
Sally, I find the one slide in the presentation to not be nearly enough. I don’t think it is complete and can be read differently by different people. They need multiple slides to show various examples clearly so that folks are FULLY informed. Continue to press city officials for full and complete information.
If no economic development materializes in the first year once debt service kicks in (which is quite likely), I read it to mean that the tax rate will increase by 15 cents. When year 2 rolls around depending on how much economic development materializes, you could be looking at the same 15 cent increase carrying over to year 2. Or if there is some development or sale of the property the 15 cent increase would be reduced. BUT the increase will not be less than 4 cents even under the rosiest of scenarios and will carry forward for many, many years. I think there are some who think that the tax rate increase is only for a single year and the way the slide is written one who is listening only casually may very well conclude that.
Is this how you and others understand it? Or am I wrong in my interpretation? The fact that more than one person can read and understand it differently points to the absolute need for complete and clear information.
I agree with you. The tax increase just for the bond (not additional teachers, city services) starts at 4 cents. It will go up to 15 cents if we don’t sell the land. The city says they have to actively market the land to sell it quickly so we don’t have a 15 cent increase. Some points to remember –
This is unprecedented debt for 30 years – not 20 as usual.
The debt puts us over the policy limit that the city has in place
If the school needs more money for teachers, which is likely, we will have more tax increases
the city thinks there will be 1000 new apartments at the campus site. Can you imagine how many families will want to move there to be walking distance to school? Many. The city says they only think 150 students will move in there.
I think there are good alternatives. We can have a smaller school (expandable) if there aren’t all the apartments to drive up enrollment.
Besides ,small schools are great. Let’s keep it that way!