By Arthur Purves
The Fairfax County Fiscal Year 2020 advertised budget continues the Board of Supervisors and school board’s decades-long pattern of reckless spending.
The budget gives county employees 3% raises, regardless of performance, even though there are 100 applicants for every job opening. Since 2015 county employee raises have averaged over 3%, compared to average inflation of 1.6%. Current employees can also retire at age 55 with 90% of salary.
Since 2000 Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) spending has increased five times faster than enrollment. However, according to ACT test results, only 55 percent of seniors are prepared for college STEM courses, and that’s only for students applying to college. The percentage would be lower if all seniors took the ACT. Schools futilely try to raise achievement with higher salaries, more staff, or relocating students instead of fixing the real problem, which is a flawed curriculum.
Finally, the advertised budget gives a large increase ($26M) to WMATA. The average WMATA salary is $90K, (compared to $77K for FCPS teachers). WMATA employees can retire at age 50 with 50% of salary or age 60 with 70% of salary. WMATA has a $3 billion unfunded liability for its pension and retiree health plans.
To pay for all this, Fairfax County residential real estate taxes have increased three times faster than household income since 2000. That may explain why the average price of homes sold in 2018 increased by only 1.9%.
The supervisors should cap school spending until the curriculum is fixed and school administration is cut, and should reduce raises and benefits, whose cost is eating away at the county’s economy. The supervisors should demand similar restraint on raises and benefits from WMATA, whose ridership is declining, as a condition for more funding.
Mr. Purves is president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance (FCTA). To learn more, visit FCTA.org.