Loudoun County Bond Referendum, 2010

Note: Since the last general election I have moved from Fairfax County, Virginia, to Loudoun County, Virginia.

Virginia county governments are required to put bond issuance to a voter referendum in order to borrow money on behalf of the county. Bond issuance is usually used by governments to raise money for large capital expenditures, and those bonds are repaid to their purchasers at a later date with interest. Bond referendums in Virginia almost always pass by a large margin, in large part because people think they are voting in favor of the agencies that will benefit (after all, who wants to vote ‘against’ schools, parks, or transportation?). Many voters do not realize that bond issuance contributes to government debt and should be used sparingly.

School Bonds

Citizens of Loudoun County will be asked through a bond referendum to authorize the Board of Supervisors to borrow up to $26.8 million to finance, in whole or in part, the building of a new elementary school near Leesburg, Virginia.

The Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) system, like most school systems in Virginia, is positively awash in money despite its continual arguments to the contrary. According to the Loudoun County FY2011 budget, schools (including school capital expenditures and school debt service) account for a mind-boggling 67.2 percent of all county tax spending. Yes, our schools get significantly more funding than all other county services combined and employ 73.2 percent of all county employees. LCPS’s 2009-2010 budget is a whopping $732.5 million, which equates to just slightly under $12,000 per-pupil per-year.

Instead of using some of this windfall to build the new elementary school, LCPS and the Board of Supervisors think we should, instead, take on new public debts in the midst of a record-breaking recession. They have not made any reasonable case for why we should do so at this time, especially given the fact that LCPS—like almost all other public schools in this country—does not seem to be properly managing the money it already has, nor does it seem to be providing an appropriate academic return on our massive investments.

The schools would only need to set aside a minuscule 3.6 percent of their normal annual budget to match the amount that would be raised by the proposed bond issuance, and they would need to set aside even less if they spread the cost over a few years. The building of this new elementary school should be funded out of LCPS’s normal annual budget, not with new public debt in the midst of a recession. I endorse a NO vote on the Loudoun County School Bonds Referendum.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.