Socialize

Fauquier schools punished in the name of Conservation

This year, Fauquier County Public Schools may be taking a double hit on funding, first from the State and then, more drastically, from the County for FY2015. The drop in State funding is a result of an increase in land values and conservation in Fauquier County. Property values have risen with a corresponding increase in the Local Composite Index (LCI), the formula the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) uses to determine how well a locality is expected to fund its schools. The drop in County level funding may be blamed on Fauquier County’s loss in tax revenues due to its Land Use conservation program.

Superintendent Dr. Jeck requests a $5.1 million increase for FY2015 from the Board of Supervisors to fully fund FCPS. Proposed County funding of only $2 million will cover a Virginia Retirement System contribution of $1.7 with little remaining for other needs, including teacher raises. Dr. Jeck seeks to improve compensation and benefits in an effort to hold onto teachers in our school division. Last year, more than 100 teachers left who may have gone to work in neighboring counties for higher pay. Currently, a master’s level teacher in Fauquier County makes, on average, $44,100, $12,000 less than in Loudon County, $7,000 less than in Fairfax County, and $5,000 less than in Prince William County.

Source:

(Fauquier County Government and Public School Division,  Department of Human Resources, taken from Virginia Education Association data.)

Average teacher salaries in Fauquier County have dropped in the last several years with a 6.6% decrease from FY2011-FY2012; a 5% decrease from FY2012-FY2013; and 7.8% decrease from FY2013-FY2014.

Sources:

(Virginia Department of Education, DLAS Document Summary:

2011-2012 Teacher Salary Survey Results. Table: 2011-2012 Salary Survey – Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/workforce_data/salaries/2011-2012_salary_report.pdf

2012-2013 Teacher Salary Survey Results. Table: 2012-2013 Salary Survey – Teachers. Retrieved from

http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD262014/$file/RD26.pdf

2013-2014 Teacher Salary Survey Results. Table: 2013-2014 Salary Survey – Teachers. Retrieved from http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD262014/$file/RD26.pdf)

Teachers have netted a total of only 3% in raises over the last six years after being required to start paying more for some of their benefits.

The County’s ability to fund its schools has been severely impacted by an unintended consequence of conservation in Fauquier County. The County lost nearly $18 million in tax revenues this year due to its Land Use program. Land Use pertains to acreage with special valuation and assessment because it is set aside in an agricultural, horticultural, forest or open space designation and is taxed at a mere fraction of its fair market value.

Source:  (Fauquier County Application for Taxation on the Basis of a Land Use Assessment, Retrieved from http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/forms/departments/commrev/pdf/applicationforlanduse.pdf)

The secondary effect of Fauquier County’s Land Use program is a substantial decrease in State level support. Funding has dropped by $1.5 million this year because it appears that Fauquier County is very capable of funding our schools at the local level. The VDOE calculates each county’s ability to locally fund its school system using the LCI formula which is based on the true value of a county’s properties, adjusted gross income, and taxable retail sales.  The wealthier a county appears, the more it will be expected to fund schools locally.

Source: (Virginia Department of Education, Budget & Grants Management, Composite Index of Local Ability to Pay: 2014 – 2016, 2012 – 2014. Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/school_finance/budget/compositeindex_local_abilitypay/)

The LCI includes a valuation of total property values but does not consider that acreage may be set aside in Land Use. Fauquier County foregoes substantial tax revenues on nearly 98,000 acres set aside in Land Use which are calculated as fully taxable within the LCI. This is a costly flaw which will continue to cause a drop in State level school funding every time property values rise and the County puts more acreage into Land Use. The better Fauquier County does for conservation, the worse it will do for its schools.

We need to expand our tax base in Fauquier County to cover the cost of our programs, especially for our public school system, by encouraging high quality business development. While our conservation focus makes Fauquier County a great place to live, so does a strong school system with teachers who are compensated fairly. We should make fully supporting our schools a priority for the success of our youth, the sake of their teachers, and the economic future of Fauquier County. That support may start with the Supervisors considering covering the unintended consequence of Fauquier County’s Land Use program: a $1.5 million loss in State funding for our schools.

Kate Warzinski                                                                                                                                                           Marshall

Comments

comments

3 Responses to Fauquier schools punished in the name of Conservation

  1. Anton Afterwit Reply

    April 7, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Dominic – The same old tired argument and scare tactic. How about some facts. Show us how the creation of a new 100 unit family development would cause an increase on the taxes of others that would not be paid for by the taxable value of the new properties. Show us how the costs would far exceed the impact fees that would be imposed.

    Maybe you could take that tired argument and show us how granting permission to Disney to create a theme park along Interstate 66 would have resulted in increased taxes that would have exceeded the revenue that would have been generated by such a park. Maybe you could show us how spending millions fighting to prevent the wineries in the County from having events resulted in us not having tax increases as opposed to the revenue that would have been generated.

    Stop the liberal talk that a reduced increase is a tax cut. Nobody cut taxes this year; they have increased the percentage as they have always done, just less than they wanted to. How about real facts and intelligent discussion rather than tired talking points and scare tactics.

  2. Dominic ruibal Reply

    April 7, 2014 at 8:25 am

    I just never thought I would hear such admitted conservatives bemoaning tax cuts. Do you know how much taxes would go up if the area were developed instead of being agricultural and we had to fund all that new infrastructure?

  3. Anton Afterwit Reply

    April 5, 2014 at 12:38 am

    Kate – One of the best posts I have read here. I think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis. The regressive tax implications of the Conservation program were not thought through because the discussion was based on emotion instead of facts, all executed under the guise of protecting the small farmer.

    You are quite right that we have been sawing the limb we are sitting on. We have created a system where vast parcels are enjoying a tax break, while smaller parcels wind up paying a larger percentage of the taxes. We are losing revenue from the largest land owners, we are limiting the ability of business development in the area, we are strangling the very commerce that will allow us to grow, we are discouraging entrepreneurship, and then bemoaning that our individual taxes keep increasing.

    With your talent to research, maybe you can share some additional information with us. I am sure the public would like to know:

    1. How much land is already developed or under easement from development compared to the total land in the County?

    2. How many of those Conservation Easements went to true small farmers (using the USDA standard of small farms as those with less than $250,000 in gross receipts annually on which day-to-day labor and management are provided by the farmer and/or the farm family that owns the production, or owns or leases the productive assets) and how many went to corporate/industrial farm operations or non-farmers?

    3. How many of those with Conservation Easements are also getting Farm Subsidies from the Federal Government on the same land not to grow crops on them?

    4. How much population receiving the Conservation Easements have a vested interest in using County Services that may be languishing because of the expenditures on the easements (i.e., do they have children in public schools)?

    It is time to stop and think about the application and consequences of the Conservation Easement program. It is time to ask serious questions about who is benefitting from the program, what the goals are, and whether or not we are already there. It is time to carefully examine the balance between land preservation (a laudable goal) and paying for the necessary resources within the county.

Please Tell Us What YOU think.