Introduction

Virginia counties are required to put bond issuance to a voter referendum in order to borrow money on behalf of the county. The issuance of bonds is usually used by governments to raise money for large capital expenditures and they are repaid at a later date with interest. Bond referendums historically pass by a large margin, in large part because people vote for the recipients of the bond money (after all, who will vote against schools, parks, or transportation?) without realizing that bond issuance contributes to government debt and should be used sparingly.

School Bonds

Citizens of Fairfax County will be asked through a bond referendum to authorize the Board of Supervisors to borrow up to $365.2 million to fund the Fairfax County Public Schools. $315.2 million would be used for school improvements and the building of new schools, while the remaining 50 million dollars would be used to expand and renovate facilities for the servicing of school busses and other county vehicles.

This exorbitant new borrowing would add to the $1.7 billion already budgeted to the public schools from the Fairfax County General Fund (FY2008) and an additional $371.8 million in state education aid. Oh, and don’t forget, we stupidly passed a 246 million dollar school bonds referendum a mere two years ago that had an eerily similar description to this one. Where did that money go?

In the two years since the last school bonds, the projected cost per-pupil to operate the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) (based on their own numbers) increased about 20 percent to $13,407/year. Why? The total budget of the school system has increased by about 15 percent in two years—a real-dollar increase in annual spending roughly equivalent to the bonds amount in this referendum. Why wasn’t that increased investment from the county and state enough to fund your buildings and bus maintenance facilities?

If $2,200,000,000.00 isn’t enough for an annual budget in a county school system, what is? Where do we draw the line? The schools already use up 52.3 percent of the Fairfax County General Fund and we have little to show for it. Where do we say enough is enough?

Sorry, FCPS . . . you have more than enough money to build some buildings and maintain some busses using your existing funding sources . . . or at least you would if you controlled your spending. I’m sure you could do a lot of good with $2.2 billion if you managed it right, but you just can’t keep coming back and asking for more. I strongly endorse a NO vote on the Fairfax County School Bonds Referendum.

Transportation Bonds

Citizens of Fairfax County will be asked through a bond referendum to authorize the Board of Supervisors to borrow up to 110 million dollars to fund regional transportation improvements, including road improvements, pedestrian improvements, and mass transit (including some money for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority [WMATA, Metro]).

As I have said many, many times before, the transportation crisis is the most important issue affecting Northern Virginia at this time. While I am usually reluctant to incur debt, I am willing to accept it in these kinds of critical situations—especially given Richmond’s continued failure to appropriately fund transportation improvements in the region. 110 million dollars doesn’t make a huge dent in the problem, but it is better than nothing. I endorse a YES vote on the Fairfax County Transportation Bonds Referendum.