Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chesterfield: The Road Ahead

While many of the people I admire here in the area for their advocacy of local issues here in Chesterfield have been oout of town at CPAC, this certainly has been a jam packed week following the Reagan Dinner held in Richmond.

Our School Board has determined that a proposed budget increase of 6 million over last year is warranted for consideration to include a 2% "salary enhancement" for employees of CCPS. This fall just months after the Board of Supervisors bonus consideration of all government employees (non-school) whom have been in service at least one full year.Am I missing something? Have we really seen any real signs (of significance) of a recovery? I mean we are still facing a huge housing crisis here in Chesterfield with rising defaults and foreclosures whihc will result in less revenue generation by the County via "paid" property taxes. Has our "government class" simply endeavored to operate outside the bubble of the real mainstream families here in the County? Do they really feel as though they are an "entitled class" even in the midst of under funded pensions and things like the VRS.

How can our government continue to operate as though they live in a box?I speak with business owners all the time who would love to provide their employees with higher wages, a bonus, or better benefits, but in the end all of their efforts are tied to income generated by operations. These are still very tense times for our local business owners and job creators and while they buckle down and make hard choices to stay in business, our government remains defiant at making any hard choices with regard to its own budgets. Both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board jave failed equally in delivering fiscally responsible budgets to meet these times.

Only in Chesterfield have we come to expect (and accept) to have a government who can rationalize proposing a budget greater than the preceeding year and then forecast a potential 20 million shortfall for 2013. If you ask those business leaders what would be their reaction to such news regarding their industry or business, what do you think the reaction would be? Well, it would be to cut spending in those areas in which they could that would not hamper business integrity. Our government however, sees things quite differently. Because government is "service" driven they use this as cover for attempting to increase budgets in order as leaders say to provide the services that citizens desire. Really?

It is not those services per say that is the question, but rather the excessive expense generated by the government in order to deliver said service when compared to other areas of the country. Why has our County seen so fit to create budgets that far outpace both population growth and inflation? How is it that a budget a mere 5-6 years ago was almost 40% less than it is today. How can people like Daniel Gecker and Marlene Durfee stand up at District Meetings with the Renaissance Group consultant tell us that by passing Comprehensive Planning we will see LESS population (they say 100K less) in the next 30 years if the Plan is adopted but then keep endorsing larger and larger budgets and Capital Improvement Plans. How?

The fact remains our County spending is out of control and these leaders lack the political will to be honest not only with citizens but apparently themselves. A 523.8 million School Budget when compared to other localities with more students/schools appears wildly optimistic or should I say dangerously opportunistic when they have admitted that the budget will surely face shortfall in the next year. Both the School Board and the Board of Supervisors must be held to task for providing in this current economic environment bonus payments to employees that outpace inflation with the average raises pegged just below 2% while inflation has been 1.2% and yet we have an admission that productivity has not been enhanced.

Our schools face very hard descisions to be sure. There is no question we must see to it that we are compensating our teachers effectively and retaining our quality teachers through performance based measures that unfortunately politically driven entities will not accept. If we endeavored to cut in those non-essential areas, we could certainly have come up with a better, focused plan to raise the teacher funding, but simply providing across the Board "salary enhancements" does nothing to increase performance.The class size and overcapacity as been exasperated by an over zealous Board of Supervisors with regard to planning by not effectively managing the impacts that such zonings would have on our schools and communities. In part, the animosity between the two Boards expressed in 2010 was not productive either. Not having engagement by the School System in zoning/planning has/is a recipe for disaster and we see it in the form of Cosby, Watkins, and Robious Middle along with others concerning capacity. Most classes are over the 25:1, 27:1, 26:1 targets (elem, middle, high) of student /teacher ratios though they manipulate classes like physical education to skew the numbers. By this I mean, it is not uncommon for an academic class to have 33-35 students, but sense there can be multiple gym class with 42-45 the numbers as a ratio on average get played with through the system. The ones that suffer from such convenient tinkering are our children!

So where are our Schools and likely of Board of Supervisors looking to explain such unwarranted budget proposals; while the State and the Federal Government of course. The Schools will receive Federal stimulus monies from two fronts; the stimulus and a Federal Jobs Bili which are to be "one-time" infusions and given whats happening in Washington these days it may just be one-time, eventhough I have been told "we always get money from the State and the Feds so not to worry". The County appears to always use the "matching" approach with regard to funds from outside sources by using the same amount of local funds for a desired purpose (thus increasing the budget) instead of just using the outside source funds for purposes of the budget.

Well, in fact we should all be worried. A County unable to operate at sustained levels regarding budgets and railing from shortfall to surplus and back to shortfall spells disaster for County stability and ulitmately will contribute to Chesterfield to be a declining locality and not a thriving one.

Those families living here in Chesterfield deserve better. Much better.



chesterfieldtaxpayer said...

To stremgthen your case on the School Budget "strategy" (The Taxpayer calls is the ostrich in the sand box with kittens budgeting approach.)

Take a look at the first set of federal spending cuts

Look on page 14 and the ax taken to the Department of Education.

We have contorted our local education program to appease state and federal "carrots" that will no longer be there. That sucking sound you here is dollars going to plug the $14,200,000,000,000 federal deficit hole. It will consume, centralize, and deflower every locality worth anything.

How much longer do we have? How come our School Board does not understand how to prepare us for the future? $100B in cuts is just the warning shot, the canary bird, the call for proactive action. Where will the new leaders come from in Chesterfield? We are organizing. Contact us if you are interested in being the next school board member or board of supervisor.

Jonathan Scott said...

I think it is also important that we hold people accountable.

In early 2010 during budget considerations, Dr. Newsome stated in a letter to Mr. Gecker(Midlothian) and Mr. Stegmaier(County Adminstrator) that "in these difficult times, it is tempting to focus on one year at a time and hope things get better the next year. The School Board believe this is not a responsible way to plan."

Is this not exactly what the School Board is doing this year? Are not kicking things down the road? The irresponsible aspect is that they know they will have a shortfall again in 2013 and that they will likely once again attempt to place its own burden on the Board of Supervisors in order to meet its roadmap called the Design for Excellence.

Newsome further added that his FY2011 plan at the time "responds to the needs of our students and our community".

One day, we will have leaders on the School Board who have the will to address exactly just whose needs and wants are being met by budget proposals such as these. I fear it is not citizens at large.

Anonymous said...

WTF! If this gets approved there will be hell to pay in November.

Anonymous said...

The majority of the CCPS shortfall is from reduced State funding not the County portion.

Anonymous said...

In 2007 the voters put in 3 newSchool Board members and 4 new BOS members. Wyman has supported the staus quo and Carpenter was a career shill for the School Board.

The School Board does deserve credit for not using Policy 724 which governs redistricting. Citizens hate redistricting and most of the overcrowed schools are clustered in areas away from the undercrowded schools.

Mr. Trammel is stepping aside which is good. He has overstayed his ability to effectively and honestly serve.

The County would be better served if we can get 2 senate seats and three house seats to ourselves. We are ill served by sharing districts.

Our GA interests are not being effectively covered compared to Va Beach, Faifax, Prince William, and even Colonial Heights.

Anonymous said...

Is not our reliance on State and Federal funds the issue Anonymous? The pool of funds is drying up. Look at the shift in Washington being undertaken with potentially reducing federal dollars to the Dept of Education if the newly elected Tea Party elements begin to ramp up support from other GOP leaders. We have known for years that the State side would be reducing funding. It is always a hope and a prayer that these budgets get proposed. For the school board budgets to continue to outpace reality is unsustainable and some sort of balance needs to brought back to the process.
I do not see how the two State Senate seats and three Delegates are an issue at the State level. There is just no revenue to fund Chesterfield in the same manner as NOVA and Va beach. There schools have higher enrollments to begin with. Are you saying that Chesterfield should receive more money than Fairfax? The pie must be shared and Chesterield will have to make do with less. The problem is the boards do not know how to cope in this type environment.
The BOCS will refuse in April to meet the revenue nuetral number that have had now for over month to consider of 1.00 for property taxes, but will rest at .95 for political purposes and not budgetary ones. If the housing sector does not rebound in 2011, the County to will face the same shortfall. Two years out will they to blame the State for lack of funding?
The School Board WILL face a 15 million shortfall as Mr. Scott has been stating since last November unless this budget addressed some real hard choices. It didn't. So be prepared for that shortfall next go around because instead of using stimulus money effectively, they scoundered it on raises/bonus to take care of their own.

We have no way of knowing just what the County portion will look like in 2012 now do we if they to face a shortfall.

Redistricting for Midlothian anyway was the only solution provided by the consultants to the County as in the proposed new comprehensive planning NO new schools at any level are proposed through 2020. NONE! The only means to solve overcapacity IS redistricting.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cox and Mr Marin get it done for Colonial Heights and let Chesterfield twist in the wind.

Fairfax and NOVA are getting their state money increased while Chesterfield is being cut.

It dies matter if you have effective representation and we don't because we don't have our own delegates and senators. Oure and simple.

Anonymous said...

So niether Watkins, Martin, Loupassi, Cox and Ware are representing Chesterfield County effectively? Just because they share lines with other areas does not diminish the efforts made; Chesterfield has squandered every dime it gets from the State. Look to see how better Henrico does with infrastructure and it gets NO STATE road fundind like Chesterfield. Wake up. The problem is systemic and it starts here locally.

Anonymous said...

So niether Watkins, Martin, Loupassi, Cox and Ware are representing Chesterfield County effectively? Correct.

AL Philpott got lts of school money for M'ville and henry county back in the day.

If not so much the person as the area they represent. We should have all of of state senator and most of another and 3 dull delegates. Anyone except for maybe martin should be able to get money.

By the way, if you see "Honest Steve" ask to see a copy of his military discharge.

Anonymous said...

"Honest Steve"????

Anonymous said...

I do not get how our Delegates and Senators can remain so quiet about all of this. I get they have statewide business but people like Martin, Ware, Watkins and Loupassi ought to be speaking to alot of these local issues and they are not.