To the Editor:
Citizens of Alexandria, I have written several articles in this newspaper not only to inform you of what is happening in the city but also to raise your ire on important issues so you will take action. I have a confession to make I have been holding out on you. I have been hoping that things would change, however things have not changed and they are spiraling out of control and the whole academic and economic well being of our city will be affected unless we act. Put away the partisan politics; we have no need and no time for that nonsense. Here is the story.
I have written much about the dilapidated condition of our schools but I never delivered the numbers, the real figures as to how bad things really are. It will take $435.7 million to repair, renovate or rebuild our school system, to get our scholastic infrastructure back to normal. This figure does not include T.C. Williams High School which is over-enrolled and needs an addition to serve the increased enrollment nor does it include Patrick Henry whose condition is so deplorable that it may need to be torn down and rebuilt. A half a billion dollars to fix our school infrastructure and remember this is a first estimate — or guesstimate is probably a better term based upon the School Board’s recent deception with the tennis lights. Jefferson Houston and T.C. Williams were all erroneously bid. It is very possible that this figure soars to $1 billion, not impossible as the tennis courts were under bid by 50 percent, $600,000 initial estimate versus the real deal at $1.2 million, T.C. Williams under budgeted by 40 percent and Jefferson Houston under budgeted by 23 percent . So there is a history here. How can this be? I mean you maintain your house, you maintain your car, schools do not maintain themselves. Don't we budget for school maintenance? I do not want to hear that the schools are 50 years old — the Washington Monument is 127 years old, the White House over 100 years old maintain and they will last. This is at worst criminal and at best irresponsible, without modern infrastructure we cannot compete academically. I really do think an internal audit of city finances is justified if their were funds alotted to maintainence and there has to be, where are they? Who is moving money this time?
This potential billion dollar price tag will be paid over 10 years and is the direct result of the city's infatuation with commercial real estate and not paying attention to what matters: the schools and the neighborhoods, our most important constituents.
I want you to digest the implications of $1 billion added to our budget over the next 10 years. After increasing the budget $100 million per year how does the metro project look to you now? What about lights at T.C. Williams, is that really important or a $40 million pool at Chincopin , were tennis lghts more important than school infrastructure? Will our credit rating remain the same? Won't we breach our finance ratios that acting City Manager Mark B. Jinks already said were at their limit. What are they thinking? The answer is no! We don't need it, can't afford it. In closing, let me leave you with one other tidbit to ponder. Of the 13 elementary schools in Alexandria, 11 are over-enrolled and four are over-enrolled by more than 25 percent. Guess what we will be doing in a couple of years? Forget what your political persuasion is, the city needs help, it needs to be rescued or we will drown in debt if the current City Council and School Board have their way.