How to Pay for Albemarle County Schools?

It costs nearly $12,000 per year to educate a kid in Albemarle County Schools. This year, the County Schools are facing a proposed funding gap of nearly $7 million and the cry from many parents, administrators and citizens has been to “fully fund the schools. (including emails from the schools’ email distribution newsgroups).”

Rather than repeat myself, this is a story I wrote three years ago and it’s still relevant. Schools matter for housing values. Period. People move to the Charlottesville area all the time for the schools. Schools. Matter. (this is as good a time as any to remind folks to check your school district before you write an offer to purchase a home )

But …

How should the citizenry pay for the schools?

Would people support an Adequate Public Facilities legislation?

A schools tax?

Asking for “more!” without referencing the “how?” in my opinion diminishes the argument.

* note: one of my kids graduated from Western Albemarle schools and one is currently enrolled.

Why does it cost $12k per year? Some local private schools cost that much – and much, much more.

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  1. Stormy February 25, 2014 at 08:58

    Your second sentence needs tweaking: “Based on the budgets proposed by the school board and County Executive, the county schools would have a budget gap of $5.8 million in 2014-2015.” Currently, there is no budget gap.

    Having said that, I think there is room for negotiation here. Everything proposed isn’t necessary for educating our children, but there are core services that the government needs to provide: police, fire, schools. I think devoting one cent of the proposed 1.7 cent increase in the property tax rate is a start.Has the county advertised the proposed tax rate yet? Once it’s advertised, it can’t be raised from that, only reduced.

    1. Jim Duncan February 26, 2014 at 06:23

      Fixed. Thanks.

      I think determining what the core functions of local government should be would be a useful exercise.

      As far as I know they haven’t yet advertised it; the deadline for challenging assessments is the 28th …

  2. Mark February 25, 2014 at 13:46

    Stormy illustrates a good point: in government-speak, reducing the amount of a percentage increase is a “cut,” and revenues that fall short of your proposed budget represent a “budget gap.” Pretty disingenuous use of language.

    This is the same county that won’t shutter tiny elementary schools because the stakeholders show up at public meetings and are louder than those advocating the closures.

    In essence the pro-schools (who is anti-schools) folks at this meeting said, “make everyone pay more taxes so my kids can benefit.” I am amazed $12k per kid isn’t enough. And whether the kids will benefit is dubious at best.

    I’m glad I live in the City, which manages its finances way better….um…but we are at least used to Democrat control of the budgeting process. Albemarle elects a slate of Democrats, and bam- taxes go up the next year. I guess this is the will of the county’s electorate

    1. Jim Duncan February 26, 2014 at 06:25

      Mark –

      I think stakeholders showing up and winning their battles is a successful demonstration of the democratic process. Is it the most fiscally sound thing? No, but that’s democracy for you.

      1. Mark February 27, 2014 at 14:00

        Jim, I see your point. However the logical extreme end of this is shown in the case of the bypass opposition, where NIMBYism and scare tactics (water and air pollution and THINK OF OUR CHILDREN!) have successfully delayed a roadway that would benefit the entire 29 corridor.

        Yes, the schools and bypass issues illustrate democracy in action, but also illustrate a lack of nerve on the part of elected officials to make the tough/unpopular decisions for the good of the whole.

        That said, if Albemarle taxpayers want to pay another 1.7 cents per $100 to keep small schools open, they certainly have that right. And if they want their local officials to block the bypass, they certainly voted for that in November. Democracy in action, indeed. It’s rare that I find myself relieved to live under the prudent rule of Charlottesville City Council!


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