Arthur Purves | Purves for Chairman
1) Fairfax County will spend $100M on bond interest this year. That adds $230 to the average real estate tax bill.
2) Bonds encourage excessive spending. For example, since 1994 the county and schools have spent $360M (plus interest) on four projects that were so controversial that the supervisors were afraid to put them up to referenda:
a. The 1994 purchase of the Herrity and Pennino buildings ($117M)
b. the 2003 construction of the South County High School ($55M)
c. the 2005 purchase of the schools’ Gatehouse Administration Building ($61M)
d. the 2014 acquisition of the new public safety building ($127M).
The supervisors bypassed referenda by having the Economic Development Authority sell the bonds as “revenue bonds.” Revenue bonds are normally used to finance projects that earn money through fees, such as toll roads. However, these EDA revenue bonds are paid off from our taxes, just like bonds that are approved by referenda. This should be illegal.
Also, the county did not do a study to compare the cost of a new public safety building with the cost of renovating one of the many abandoned office buildings.
3) Most years the revenue from bond sales was about the same as the debt service. See green and blue bars in the chart below. Interest is only justified when you need more money than you have.
4) The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Capital Improvement Plan shows no evidence of frugality in designing renovations and new buildings. The word “frugal” does not appear in the 288-page FCPS Capital Improvement Plan.
5) The FCPS ending balance has increased from $140M in FY2018 to $331M in FY2023, even though it had 8,000 fewer students. That’s a $190M increase that should have been returned to the taxpayer but failing that, could have been spent on renovations and construction instead of selling bonds.
6) The schools have $519M in authorized but unissued bonds and sell about $200M a year. Even if this referendum is not approved, FCPS has enough unissued bonds for the next two years.
In short, 1) the county has bypassed bond referenda for controversial projects, 2) the schools have $190 million extra dollars, and 3) interest on bonds adds over $200 to the average real estate tax bill.
Arthur Purves, a retired computer programmer, is the Fairfax GOP nominee for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. This article was first published by TheBullElephant.com on September 1, 2023.