Showing posts from 2015

Lessons from Steve Harvey's Crowning of the Wrong Miss Universe

And the survey says Miss Philippines.  Steve Harvey accidentally crowned the runner up, Miss Columbia, as Miss Universe before apologizing and crowning the correct contender. Despite a sincere apology, the internet lit up with ire, skewering Harvey with various memes and blog posts.

Apparently, to many, it is quite the atrocity to crown the wrong contestant in a pageant. Either this is because of the irony or hilarity of the situation or because of actual disgust that the wrong person was declared the victor.

Yet, we, as a citizens, as a society, are guilty of the same transgression that Steve Harvey committed, but with much more dire consequences. Through a double-whammy of both policy that discourages citizens from voting and voter apathy, politicians are crowned, or, rather, elected, to public office that do not necessarily represent the will or best interests of the citizenry.

In Virginia, it does not help that there is an election in every year that ends in a number. A higher p…

When One Goes to the Dark Side

Like many others in our galaxy, I went to see the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens this weekend.  No, don't worry, I'm not going to give any spoilers.

As I reflect on this past week's political news, I can't help but make some comparisons to events in prior movies from the Star Wars canon, notably the relationship between Anakin "Darth Vader" Skywalker and Senator (later Chancellor, and, ultimately, Emperor) Palpatine.

Skywalker, despite his eventual actions as Darth Vader, was never what I would call an evil figure. He was an opportunist who sought power, notably, to avenge the death of his mother. Instead of continuing his training as a Jedi under Obi Wan Kenobi, he was seduced to the power of the dark side by the charming and cunning politician Palpatine who sought to (for lack of better words) "Make the Universe Great Again." The rest is history (unless you've never seen a Star Wars movie). Skywalker, as Darth Vader, was immensely po…

Corey Stewart Tapped as Chairman for Donald Trump Campaign in Virginia

Details here:

The Counts will be posting some commentary on this bizzare move in the coming days.

Going on the Attack

Another local election has come and passed.

Not everyone I supported and voted for won their election. 
Despite how passionate I am about issues such as public education, I have to make the realization as an adult, as a mature human being, that it's all right. 
As naive as it may sound, I am giving everyone who was elected to office the benefit of the doubt to perform their duties and represent my interests and those of the community in the best way possible.
Once one starts making decisions that I disagree with, then I will go on the warpath. Our elected officials must be held accountable.
I find it despicable when others have sour grapes about the election results and go on a spree to try to find anything possible to attack those they did not support before they even take office.
Case in point-- The Sheriff of Nottingham has attacked School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers for a quote of his in the Bull Run Observer, accusing him of flip-flopping about the revenue sharing agreement. …

The Mutiny That Wasn't

Less than a week after the Board of County Supervisors had a momentous vote adopting the budget and tax rate, Chairman Corey Stewart and Supervisor Marty Nohe faced what appeared to be stiff competition in a Republican Firehouse Primary. Stiff competition, that is, in the eyes of the Puppet Masters who thought their far-right wing candidates would prove triumphant.
The Puppet Masters are a group of certain bloggers and office holders in the Brentsville District and the western end of the Gainesville District. Names aren't being given as it is pretty obvious who they are. Their goal is an extreme makeover of Prince William County to be a wonderland of extremely small government. This means lower taxes for those who own the wealthiest houses in the county and fewer government services for those who depend on them. The Puppet Masters didn't believe that Corey Stewart and Marty Nohe were Republican enough, scratch that, Conservative enough, so they felt the need to pull off a Dav…

A Win, But the Fight Continues

Bravo to the Board of County Supervisors for approving the Advertised Tax Rate, PWCS Budget, and County Budget. It is the first time in recent memory that the tax rate adopted by the BOCS has been the same as the advertised tax rate. Hopefully this is not, simply, an election year stunt, but a signal of a commitment that will continue to be seen in future years from the BOCS to properly fund our schools and county services as well as compensating employees.

While it was disappointing that Supervisors Candland and Lawson voted against the Tax Rate, PWCS Budget, and County Budget, it is good to see that both of them wish to look long-term to fund class size reductions. Supervisor Principi's $1 million funding proposal for class size reductions passed. While additional funds are important for class size reductions, hopefully these matching funds will not result in unnecessary cuts from the School Board to programs or compensation when finding the $1 million to match in the PWCS budge…

Does Supervisor Pete Candland's Tax Rate Proposal Help Homeowners With a 14% Property Assessment Increase?

Supervisor Pete Candland has been sounding the alarm of tax bill increases for homeowners. He is concerned because higher property assessments will mean higher taxes. He has noted that some assessments have been going up as high as 14%, particularly for houses of low and medium range value. Furthermore, he has suggested that by focusing on the average tax bill, the reality of tax increases to be paid by homeowners is being ignored where property values have gone up significantly more than the average.

The solution for Supervisor Candland is to adopt a tax rate lower than the advertised tax rate.

The advertised tax rate is $1.122 per $100 of assessed value, lower than both last year's tax rate of $1.148 and the tax rate suggested in the 5-Year Plan of $1.123.

Supervisor Candland's proposal earlier in the budget cycle was a tax rate of $1.094, also known as the 1.3% average tax bill increase. This was a widely-panned proposal by many in the community because of the cuts it would…

What is Being Missed in the Ferlazzo vs. Porter Battle?

All children in Prince William County are entitled to a world-class public school.
A world class public school that is not overcrowded to the point of many classes being in trailers or subjects being taught on carts. 
A world class public school that has small class sizes. 
A world class school no matter the income of the students' parents and no matter where the student lives.
This is what is being lost in the debate over the building of the new Ferlazzo school in the vicinity of the junction of Minnieville Rd and Spriggs Rd.
Residents in the communities near where the new school is to be built believe they are entitled to the new school. Proffers from the developers of their communities would be used to help pay for this new school. Based on approval by the School Board and the Board of County Supervisors, this school was to be built as a community elementary school.
On the other hand, the Porter Traditional School Community also believes it is entitled to the new school. Par…

Tax Rates and Tax Bills and Assessments, Oh My!

As with all budget seasons in Prince William County, there is a ripe discussion about funding priorities versus tax revenues this year. Class sizes need to be reduced, police officers need to be hired, and county services that residents depend on need to be provided. On the other hand, taxes cannot be raised to such a level that cannot be afforded by residents and businesses. 
Unfortunately, the discussion has been clouded by confusion betweentax bills,tax rates, andproperty assessments. Whether purposefully or by accident, these phrases get used interchangeably in discussions by officeholders, residents, and community activists. I know, myself, I have said one thing when I meant the other.
Even Supervisor Pete Candland has gotten in on the confusion act in one of his recent e-mails: "Many of you have reached out to me about the increased tax burden imposed on our homes far above the so-called average tax bill increase of only $139 per year. With assessment increases of 9%, 10%,…

School Funding: Who Has the Responsibility?

When it comes to public school funding in Prince William County, there is plenty of finger pointing to go around. Stuck in the middle are the children, teachers, and taxpayers. 
- The School Board points to both the Board of County Supervisors and General Assembly for not funding enough.
- The Board of County Supervisors points to the General Assembly for not funding its fair share.  - The General Assembly points to the Board of County Supervisors for not funding its fair share.
Are you dizzy yet?
Since 2009, neither state nor local revenues have kept pace with growth of the student population in Prince William County. Indeed, both the General Assembly and the BOCS should prioritize public school funding. 
Virginia is the ninth wealthiest state in the nation for per-capita personal income, yet ranks 41st in the nation for state funding of K-12 public schools according to the CQ State Fact Finder Series. This is a drop from 38th in the nation. 
State funding of public schools is based …

Thoughts About Loudoun County's Full-Funding of its Schools and What it Means for Prince William County

The Washington Post reports today that "for the first time in more than a decade, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is poised to fully fund the operating budget proposed by the county school board." This is an excellent development and a victory for school staff, students, and parents in Loudoun County, where quite the bold budget was presented to further lower class sizes and expand full-day kindergarten earlier this year.

However, comparing Prince William County to Loudoun County is not exactly is a comparison of apples to apples. Here are a couple of the differences and points to consider as this year's budget season slowly wraps up.

Loudoun County Does Not Have a Revenue Sharing Agreement:
Prince William County Public Schools has a revenue sharing agreement with the Board of County Supervisors which stipulates that 57.23% of general fund revenues go to the school system. Note, that this is not 57.23% of all revenues (the percentage of all revenues received is a …

Justin Wilk: Prioritize Spending and Focus on Special Education

School Board candidate and former PWCS teacher Justin Wilk has penned an excellent op-ed on Potomac Local. He believes that funding needs to be re-prioritized to be appropriated toward Special education. Ideas and solutions like those that Wilk brings to the table are needed on the School Board. 
To read Justin's op-ed, click here:

Can PWCS Cut Its Way to Victory?

It is well-known that Prince William County's schools have the highest class sizes in the state. Over the years, as revenues, from both the state and BOCS, have not kept pace with growth in student population, the situation has slowly gotten worse because cuts have had to be made in the budget, which have also included higher special education case loads and stagnant teacher compensation.

Ask any teacher or staff member that works for PWCS and they will supply you a laundry list of additional cuts that have been felt in schools as a result of austere budgets. These cuts include, but are definitely not limited to: lack of funding for substitutes, lack of supplies (such as paper), less custodial support, longer turnaround for work orders, cuts at the administration complex resulting in less support for schools and teachers, and so forth.

Despite these realities, there is a fantasy out there that the only way to lower class sizes and case loads is to make more cuts. I am not justify…

Atif Qarni for VA Senate

Prince William County Schools math teacher Atif Qarni hopes to win the VA Senate seat being vacated by long-serving state senator Chuck Colgan.  The primary for the 29th District seat will be held on June 9.  Atif estimates that his team knocked on over 500 doors today!  The Counts are looking forward to having a teacher in General Assembly!

Rick Smith for BOCS Chairman Campaign Kickoff

Kudos to Rick Smith for giving a shout-out to teachers, parents, and students this afternoon at his campaign kickoff.  Rick attended PWCS and his kids were and are educated here.  Rick's lived in PWC 36 years and he has very deep ties to our community.

PWC Electoral Board member  Keith Scarborough also deserves props for mentioning several times in his speech that PWC schools have the largest class sizes in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Justin Wilk, former PWCS teacher and current candidate for the Potomac District School Board seat, attended the event.

But, The Pool!

The aquatics facility at the new 12th High School has been the source of much ire. For many in the community, including some on the Board of County Supervisors, the aquatics facility is viewed as an unnecessary expense when the school system budget should be appropriated toward much more important priorities.

I'll join in the chorus and say that, indeed, the aquatics facility was not best expenditure for the school system. Furthermore, I do not agree with every expenditure that the BOCS has made or every expenditure from the state and federal governments. I also realize that there were people in the community who desired an aquatics facility and others who did not.
Sometimes, when I have approached various community members to describe how much our schools are under-funded in Prince William County, I get this response:
"But, The Pool!" 
The response is given to me as if the lack of an aquatics facility will magically paint sunshine and rainbows everywhere. In fact, it will n…

Here's an idea . . .

If there was a Swear Jar in the backrooms of McCoart, the school division's budget would be fully funded:

The 20% Tax Bill Increase Alarm

Like many, my wages have been rather stagnant in the economy while the cost of everything, from groceries to clothing, to restaurant food to movie tickets, has gone up in price. I cannot say that I really want my taxes to go up. However, given the choice, I'd rather pay for more teachers to lower our class sizes to better educate our students and pay for more police officers to keep our communities safe than not do so, as these are considerations that affect the quality of life and future of our community. 

Taking the proper stand, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) made the responsible step to keep tax bills lower during the most economically challenging years. As you can see from this Washington Post graphic, the average property tax bill has remained rather low in Prince William County and is significantly lower than our Northern Virginia peers.

As an excuse to get the BOCS out of it's responsibility for funding the Five-year plan (which allows the school s…

If You Tell The Lie Enough Times, It Will Be Believed...

As a justification for continuing austerity in local budgeting, the likes of Pete Candland, Mac Haddow, and Jeanine Lawson point out that revenues have kept pace with growth in school funding. And they're right, because they use 2011 or 2012 as benchmark years.

 However, A closer examination shows that such an assertion is not quite honest because the most austere years are used for the benchmark.

The reality?

School funding has not kept pace with growth since 2009. Between 10,000-15,000 additional students have been welcomed into our classrooms since 2009 while local revenues have yet to return to 2009 levels.

The time has come to fund our schools properly and stop skewing the funding realities to abdicate the responsibility for doing so.

Frank Principi: "Better budgeting needed to tackle our growth challenges"

Supervisor Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) penned an excellent op-ed about what kind of budgetary planning is necessary to meet the needs of our community, especially after years of austerity.

A New Beginning for Prince William County

This blog has been started because it is long past time for the paradigm to be changed in Prince William County. While our county may be a great place to live, work, and play, it is plagued by under-funded schools and under-funded county services. Residents and businesses deserve better. Economic development is necessary to diversify the tax base so that less of the tax burden falls on county residents. However, funding our schools and county services needs to be done in an appropriate way that meet the needs of the community so that we can attract businesses to Prince William County. This is a long-term discussion that goes beyond one budget cycle or one election year, a long-term discussion that should involve multiple voices and perspectives, but results in plans and solutions instead of finger pointing and blaming. 

The aim of this blog is to look for solutions and the big picture. Discussion, agreement, and criticism are welcome. Nobody will be censored as long as disagreement is …