Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chesterfield County: A Northern Virginia Future?

We all are in agreement that Chesterfield County is growing rapidly, even despite the economic slowdown, and our local government faces some real tough challenges before it. Like, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chesterfield County will likely experience budget shortfalls. The Chesterfield School Board has already alluded to such shortfalls that it will be facing in 2009.

So the question is, what will be the issues driving the debate regarding bringing revenues and expenditures in the future in line?

Well, Chesterfield County officials need only to look to Northern Virginia to see what it may be facing in ten years. Uncontrolled and ill-planned growth in places like Fairfax and Prince William County demonstrate the impacts of densely populated areas and the impacts on infrastructure and county services.

Many political folks have touted how Prince William County is the belleweather of Virginia. Today the Washington Post tackles this debate in a piece by Kristen Mack. Much of the focus on PWC is a result of the increasing population. The blogosphere has been engaged with this very issue for quite some time and Raising Kaine, Northern Virginia's most influential liberal blogging community, seems extremely pleased that PWC supported Barack Obama last week. The political takeway very well may be pleasing but what about the economic future of a County that has grown so fast that the growth has now slowed the increases in quality of life that the County had been experiencing. Raising Kaine touts the influence for the rising minority population, in this case the Hispanic community, as fuel to their political agenda but where will the money on the local level come from to offset the expenses associated with the assimilation of the immigrants recently arrving in mass to the County.

PWC is facing rising foreclosure counts that threaten the value of every residents property moving forward. A look at the Countrywide foreclosure list demonstrates hundreds of homes in the Manassas and greater PWC areas rising in default every month by that company. Should property values continue the decline, the County will be unable to generate the level of revenues required by the County to sustain services without drastic redcutions and cuts to the budget. The County has one of the highest influx of non-English speaking children or English as a second language populations in the entire State. How will the County be able to continue spending at the current levels to meet the demands of this population within its school systems moving forward?

This question is'nt exactly new. Prince William and Stafford County have been faced with this issue for years now. Raising Kaine and other liberal bloggers in Northern Virginia have attacked the Republican Board of County Supervisors (though not the Democrats in the area) as racist or anti-immigrant for raising issues facing the County regarding the funding of "illegal" immigrants through county social services and through the school board expenditures. Even raising the economic impact question of "illegals"results in such accusations of racism or bigotry.

The liberals feel it is governments responsibility on the local level it seems to fund the same level of services for "illegals" as it does citizens within the County regardless of whether these individuals are paying into the system. Liberals have secured the ground by making any attempt to address the "illegal" population as an attempt to attack all Hispanics in the region, even thouse who are here legally and are law abiding citizens. The fact that there has been a increase in illegal activity resulting from gangs operating in the region whose composition is mostly "illegal" makes little consequence unless of course they make it into Arlington where liberals then may have a different take on the situation. So the issue of "illegals" results in hard hits to the County budget on all levels; services, schools, police and health-related areas.

How do the liberals propose the rising tide be handled in terms of guaranteeing EVERYONE a higher quality of life? Well, they have very little to offer by way of solutions but are very quick to throw out the race card at every instance. For example, Stafford County recently proposed that

"the use of English language be the sole language for use in Stafford County schools"

This off course was directed at the "teaching" element and not the offering of foriegn languages through the school system. In short, the County wants to make sure that all students in classes such as English, Science, Math, Arts, Social Sciences are "taught" in English regardless of nationality, ethnicity, race or any other factor. Of course, the liberal community attacked this proposal as a measure to end all teachings of foriegn languages in the schools which is completely baseless and has never been the intent. Again, liberals cried bigotry.

Is it not our reponsibilty to give every member of our society the chance to make it? How will immigrants make it in this society if we allow them to move through our school systems without mastering English or if all their classes are being taught in Spanish in order to make learning easier for them just to make it through but not master the subjects. What good will that do them in the real world or in college? By all means we should be funding where appropriate and feasable Adult English as a second language for those immigrants who come to Virginia in order to speed the process of assimilation, but our youth should be educated in the same manner as our native born students in order to prevent such disadvantages that could result later if allowed to graduate high school without mastering English. I certainly support the notion that our teachers should be teaching all classes in English.

I have never understood why declaring English as our official language as been allowed to morph into the same eco-political ideal similar to the contention we actually have an immigration policy. We sorta do, but we don't enforce it. We sorta have English as our native language, but we don't require it to be used in the classroom. Absolute craziness.

If you are sitting in Chesterfield, look to Northern Virginia as a window to a potential future that may be coming. Rising populations and rising foreclosures result in a higher density of rental housing which contributes to increased sprawl even further out. Fifteen years ago it was Fairfax. As home values rose dramatically, relocation patterns increased in PWC and Stafford resulting in a growing population that could afford to live there as opposed to Fairfax, Arlington and even Loudon. Data is now supporting that sprawl from NOVA has now entered the Spotsylvania County market as well. While the Republican opposition in PWC wants to place the blame for foreclosures on them and not the individuals or even the entities who engaged in the financing appears so politically motivated its shameful.

I say this because many of these liberal bloggers care very little of the quality of life in these areas as much as they do whether they can fuel the rage of citizens on the local level by pointing to Republicans as to whose to blame for their lot in life. Economic data, growth and populations patterns are on no consequence it seems.

Chesterfield very well may experience the same trends. Many people will determine to uproot from NOVA unless something is done to address the wide variety of issues. There is burden to be born by all sides and their are no easy fixes, but any solutions must be undertaken from a position of dignity and respect not only for individuals but for our laws as well.

Chesterfield is already experiencing some of the early stages that NOVA had in terms of growth. Transportation and infrastructure being one and school crowding be another. These are but the seedlings to future problems, like rising unemployment, increased commercial and urban sprawl and the decline of homevalues. None of this happens overnight, but we must endeavor to plan for these hurdles now and not wait until we are faced square in the face with the issues that Northern Virginia is facing today.

Ask yourselves. Do you really want Chesterfield County to become just another Fairfax or Prince William in the future?


novarealist said...

The attack machines like RK has set their sights on Corey Stewart in Prince William County who is a Republican and have attempted to inflame the minority community with falsehoods and steriotypes. They claim not only that all GOP supporters are bigots and yet never ever propose anything by by of funding to support dealing with the issues. RK did the same thing to Jerry Connolly in Fairfax in his Primary for the seat in Congress that he eventually won against Fimian. They backed Leslie Byrne- another in denial with no solutions liberal. Its easier to sit back and with the push of a keyboard bash those on the local level who are accountable to the electorate than put forth ideas. RK ideas begin and end with all Republicans relocating downstate, and yet even after that would care less for the people left behind. Its the same over and over. Raising Kaine attacks social conservatives over the pro-life issue but then sit backs and says nothing about the beloved Kaine's reduction in funding for adoptions in the State nor doing anyhting to make it easier for people to adopt. It makes no sense from a civil view, but to them its all about politics. They care less about immigrant filling those jobs because if they did Alter that would run directly counter to their pro-union positon and the base they pull from. They never address how unions have more bigotry towards immigrants than Republicans do. Who do you think will get those green jobs that the liberals are advocating will come to NOVA if the State simply just squashes Dominion Power as they want? I bet it will not be the immigrants in NOVA.
Be thankful you have not been taken over by the liberal mob mentality of cast blame first and worry about the fall out later crowd. And whats happening to all those jobs Warner brought to NOVA? Remember the talks about VW in NOVA earlier this year, I bet those jobs leave as fast as they arrived given the current market for autos and to add to the current job losses, liberals want to shut down anything even related to coal. It will be intersting to see the response undertaken by the local Boards in alot of these Counties to respond to shortfalls but I guess the liberals feel that the illegal alien impacts are meaningless.

Lucks Lane said...

PWC is raising the RE rate about 20c but most residents will pay a little less in 2009 because of falling values.

PWC has some gold mine sales tax generators in Potomac Mills and Ikea.

I remember when we played Woodbridge in the 1974 fb playoffs. There were only 2 hs in PWC then. Now there are 6 within a 3 mile radius.

Anonymous said...

Falling values have littel to do with the standing assessments in place. Currently, assessments are higher than selling/listing prices. You are under the misconception that the County will set an across the board reset of the assessments. Some may experience this reduction, but not new homes built within the last five years which are mostly in the 450,000 to 750,000 range.
The foreclosure numbers are staggering and the other issue is whether the county will see any revenue from those in the process and thats thousands of homes.
There is talk of implementing a real estate sale transaction fee as well on future home sales to offset some of the revenue lost from homes in foreclosure. You must also consider that if a house is vacant it is not paying fees for services either into the pot.

Lucks Lane said...

The County sets value by neighborhood. They look at sales within that area and apply the change to all the homes.(There has only been one sale in my neighborhood which sold at 95% of assed value). That in itself will result in very static values which will not sustain salary increases and benefits for current employees and retirees which have driven budget increases.

There are one third less homes coming on line this year over 2007.
A mortgage banker just told me 2009will be about 20 percent of 2007. Additionally, the RE tax contribution to the General Fund fell as a total percentage of revenues in the 2008-09 budget.

That being said, I think the County is very concerned about the drop in sales tax collections ver. projections. PP taxes are going to be hit, but not as much as sales tax.

The wildcard will be the State cutbacks in the next budget.

Our BOS is facing a more difficult task than the last Board. The golden goose tax generator of 2002-2007 is dead and gone.

We can be thankful we are not Richmond. They are going to get creamed from falling sales tax revenue from the shrinking of Stony Point Fashion Mall in 2009.

Anonymous said...

And Watkins Centre? What about the progress of leases there?

This Board is challenged alright? A substantial decrease in sales tax revenues and fees associated with the business community will decline. This will be used as the excuse to citizens why the Regional Transportation Authority is required.

Dan Gecker has now been part of this madness for almost nine years as part of the Planning Commission and now the Board representing Midlothian. This area and Mataoca account for the majority of the growth in the last ten years as well as a majority in the revenue generated for the County. He has overseen some of the largest scale developments in Chesterfields history in Roseland, Grayco, and Magnolia Green, offered up a reduced cash proffer compromise proposal policy for the benefit of developers and has opposed impact fees from going into line on properties zoned prior to the cash proffer origination. Gecker articulated his preference to shift additonal portions of the revenue burden unto the commercial community which contributes roughly 20% as of 2007. I fail to see how he nor the remainder Supervisors have done one thing to increase that number and bring citizens portion back to a more appropriate level. I wonder what Henrico County ratio is between citizens and commercial? In fact compared to the number of commercial enterprises located in Henrico, Chesterfield is a disaster. Why is it we have roughly the same income demographics and population and yet are apparently less attractive to the commercial interest. It seems we hooked our future more on residential, which of course is a problem given our overcrowding in our schools already even before these new homes come on line...if they ever come on line. One down in Chester has already pulled out of developing the land that was zoned for residential citing "market conditions".

Anonymous said...

A piece in todays RTD pretty much put a nail in the coffin of the Auhtority idea but it will still be presented to the General Assembly.

It figures that Chesterfield was in minority of wanting this as many other Counties said no thanks.

Lucks Lane said...

The transportation authority was a farce from the start. We do not need a 4th level of government to tax us.

Kirk Cox needs to get his act together and get something done for Chesterfield's road needs. His lack of courage is hurting his constitients now and in the future.

John said...

Its not the far from a farce given the implementation of the CDA for Magnolia Green area residents. They will have to pay taxes in addition to the normal property tax that the rest of us pay simply because they chose to buy in that area. The Regional plan was/is simply an extension of that plan that was approved by the County.

Who knows Lucks, before long maybe you will be paying as well as a means to get the funding for the extension of Powhite to Grange Hall elementary.

Lucks Lane said...

John I am a tightwad. I exit on Courthouse Rd before the 75c toll. I pay 50c.

If they raise it, people will stop using it.

Anonymous said...

What John is referring to Lucks is the tax set up by the creation of a CDA (Community Development Authority) which was created during the zoning case for Magnolia Green. Every home in the defined area is charged a yearly tax in addition to the property tax they pay for the property. This tax has nothing to do with the Powhite Parkway toll charges. The revenue generated from the CDA taxes is to go to roads and infrastructure much like the plan for the Regional Authority. John's point was it is (the CDA) already in place. Funds from these taxes/fees could be used to extend the Parkway as far as Grange Hall Elementary on Hull Street.
I believe the tax is .21cents per 100 in value for every home in the defined territory on top of the current .97 cent property tax.

Jim said...

The recent failure of the Regional Transportation Authority to gain support from localities in its present form will certainly lead to the concept of the CDA to be focused more upon moving forward.

There is no way that the County can "responsibly" continue the buildout out phase without addressing infrastructure shortfalls and providing solutions for addressing those needs.

As the single issue of the last camapign in 2007 was around "developers", mostly residential in 2011 the story will be transportation and infrastructure given the largest zoning approvals are coming down the pipe on this current Boards watch. Communities like Brandermill seek to revise its own community plan and this will continue for as with new developments like Roseland, Magnolia, Grayco and such the property values of these older areas like Brandermill and Woodlake certainly could be under pressure.

Anonymous said...

Watch this Board in Chesterfield in its totality and not merely on single issues and see if there are any trends. I suspect there will be in the zoning process. They misled voters in the campaigns of 2007 and they now have hand almost a full year now and have stumbled in many areas or have sought deferrals as a backstop to making new policy. Did they solve the issue of the Upper Swift Creek Plan or addressed the inbalance b/t commercial and citizen contributions to the revenues? Was it the Board or the economy that has slowed the growth? Watch the Board attempt to politically take credit for less construction like down in Chester with Hunt pulling out.
If you are a Republican and can articulate clear direction on principle and infrastructure funding as well as addressing the shortfalls that are upon us both in the General and School Board areas, there will be opportunity in Midlothian, Matoaca, and Dale the next cycle. The independents on the current Board are behaving more like progressives and the County may simply, if well informed, reject such ideals.
If after three and half years the schools are still overcrowded and trailers are still the answer, voters will reject them at the polls in large part b/c we do not want to be like Northern Virginia and they are setting the groundwork to be just that.