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Letter: School Budget: Different Perspective

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

"Challenging discussion on the Fairfax County FY 2015 Budget" is another attendee’s perspective on the Lee District Feb. 26 meeting at which the FCPS and Fairfax County budgets were presented. I was present at this meeting along with recent letter to the editor author Terry Atkinson "Toxic Debate on School Budget," Connection, April 3-9). I walked away from this meeting with the impression that our residents and officials want to be part of the solution to build a stronger Fairfax County. Although sometimes vocal

about their frustrations, they were not part of a "toxic debate."

This forum was an appropriate place for homeowners to relay their concerns about increased real estate assessments. It was an appropriate place for a FCPS volunteer, a FCPS employee and parent to address their elected officials and public servants who were outlining 2 complex, co-dependent financial plans. Other residents asked questions pertaining to the Human Services and Public Safety budgets. Many of

those commenting prefaced their remarks with appreciation for the hard work put forth by all these officials.

A discussion on shared resources (fuel purchases, building and vehicle maintenance) between county government and public schools took place.

Examples of shared program development (SACC and a Pre-K reading program at John Marshall Library) also occurred. Another resident asked about ways everyone could help identify new revenue sources.

Another wondered about the value of engaging our surrounding counties in a dialogue to brainstorm ideas on solving funding challenges.

One of the homeowners who expressed dismay over his assessment said he has no intention of moving- one could surmise that he is invested in our county and wants to remain so, regardless of his increased property tax burden. Another resident spoke of his securing of computer equipment for one of our schools.

We need to meet the demands of all Fairfax County residents. Listening tours took place among smaller subsets of interest groups prior to the formal presentations of these budgets. We need to do more of those. We need to find different ways to dialogue with the business community,

government employer bases, citizen action committees, volunteers and elected officials.

We are all trying to achieve the same objective- we are not trying to pit one set of residents’ needs against another. Unfortunately, with a still recovering economy and housing market, an overall population growth rate of 5.7 percent and a school population growth rate of 7.9 percent and a return to our county coffers of only 19 cents on every dollar we turn over to the state, we are faced with a shortage in revenue and an ever growing lists of needs.

Those attending the Feb. 26 Lee District Association of Civic

Organizations Meeting understand all these challenges and are looking to work with their elected officials and county public servants to increase revenues and fully fund all our county needs. That’s what I took away from this meeting. We can accomplish so much more if we respectfully interpret each other’s input and listen and learn from each other.

Elizabeth Murphy

Springfield