June 25, 2017

A Thought about Taxes and Paying a 'Fair Share'

 "Liberals love to say things like, "We're just asking everyone to pay their fair share." But government is not about asking. It is about telling. The difference is fundamental.  It is the difference between making love and being raped, between working for a living and being a slave."

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: page 186, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on the first of the unnumbered pages; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

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For other Thomas Sowell quotes, see the results of this this search. And visit his website, too.

June 24, 2017

Can Anyone on the Arlngton School Board Do Arithmatic?

A front-page story in this week's Arlington Sun Gazette reports "It's Decision for High-School Seats." Scott McCaffrey begins the report, writing:

"With the deadline for a decision looming large, top Arlington Public Schools staff say they can bring 1,300 new high-school seats online by 2022 within a budgeted $103.5 million in all but one scenario they have laid out to School Board members.

"Those staff, led by Superintendent Patrick Murphy, on June 15 affirmed their previous recommendation that the seats be split between a renovated Arlington Education Center and new construction on the Arlington Career Center campus.

"That proposal would require an estimated $24 million to develop 500 to 600 classroom seats at the five-story Education Center (now serving as the school system’s administrative headquarters) and $79 million for 700 to 800 additional seats at the Career Center.

"They are dollar figures school officials aim to reduce, if possible.

“We need to look very carefully at how we are using our [financial] resources . . . be very conscious about how we use our funds,” Murphy told School Board members. “My goal . . . is to keep our costs low.”

"But there already may be a budget hitch; the so-called hybrid proposal recommended to School Board members does not include, or even estimate the cost of, structured parking in garages, either above-ground or underground.

“Where do we get the money?” asked School Board member Reid Goldstein. It was a question that had no ready answer at the June 15 meeting, and if the funds are not available, the school system may have to resort to surface parking, which could reduce open space or athletic fields."

McCaffrey reports much more in the article, but the above contains the information I'd like to focus on. Specifically, the Arlington Public Schools plan to add 1,300 high-school seats at a cost to taxpayers of $103.5 million, or $79,615 per seat. That includes:

  • At the Education Center, APS would add 500 to 600 seats at a cost of $24 million, or $43,636 per seat.
  • At the Career Center, APS would add 700 to 800 sears at a cost of $79 million, or $105,333 per seat.
Compare those to the cost of the most recent high school in Virginia. The 2016-2017 Annual Cost Data Report of the Virginia Department of Education shows the contract for High School No. 11 was awarded March 17 by the Loudoun County Public Schools, and will have a maximum capacity of 1,956 students and have a total cost per pupil of $46,945. Background on school construction costs can be found here. Construction cost data by fiscal year can be found here.

Take a few minutes to absorb the above numbers that are bolded for easier reading. To say the Arlington School Board should have some questions for the Superintendent and his staff would be an understatement.

Growls readers with questions or comments about the Arlington Public Schools proposal to add additional high school seats at the Education Center and Career Center should direct them to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 23, 2017

County Continues Struggling with Office Vacancy Rate

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey reported today that "Arlington (is) still grappling with vacancy rate, economic incentives."

McCaffrey reported on a presentation to the Arlington County Board by a director in the county's economic development department at Tuesday's recessed Board meeting. He began, writing:

"Despite the efforts of Arlington officials to cut the county’s office-vacancy rate below 20 percent, it again could bump up over that figure when the National Science Foundation decamps to Alexandria at the end of the year.

"And even without that looming departure, the county faces “other considerable headwinds that we’re still dealing with on a daily basis,” said Christina Winn, director of Arlington Economic Development’s Business Investment Group, in a June 20 presentation to the County Board.

"Winn was on hand to explain the rationale behind giving $800,000 in local funds – on top of $500,000 in state funds – to Bloomberg BNA, a firm focused on legal, tax and regulatory issues, to support the firm’s expansion in Arlington.

"To get the cash, BNA aims to relocate 250 jobs to Arlington and occupy an additional 78,000 square feet of office space.

"Economic-incentive grants are a relatively new tool for the Arlington government, where county officials long have used the community’s strategic location as its main selling point. But since 2015, 12 such agreements have been inked between the county government and businesses."

He also wrote about the economic-incentive grants, noting:

"Economic-incentive grants are a relatively new tool for the Arlington government, where county officials long have used the community’s strategic location as its main selling point. But since 2015, 12 such agreements have been inked between the county government and businesses.

"Winn said the total payout from county coffers so far has been about $500,000, although more will be pushed through the pipeline if the various firms meet incentive targets." (emphasis added)

McCaffrey points out Arlington once had the lowest vacancy rate in the region, but starting in 2014, it topped out above 20%. It's now down to 18.9%. he writes, adding "the departure of the National Science Foundation is expected to add 1.5 percent to the countywide rate . . ."

Here's another link to McCaffrey's complete report.

You can find the county's latest economic statistics in their monthly newsletter, Economic Update.

Our last Growls about the county's efforts to fill that vacant commercial space was October 20, 2016, which includes links to related information. The importance of a vibrant commercial sector was emphasized in the post when we growled that "a 10% increase in office occupancy should result in a $34 million increase in real estate taxes."

If you are concerned about the Arlington County economy, and its real estate tax base, take a few minutes and write to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you!

June 22, 2017

A Thought about the Constitution

"The Constitution is the bedrock on which a living, evolving nation was built.  It is -- and must be -- a timeless and durable foundation that individuals can count on in a changing world. It is not perfect but the Framers made it more perfectible through the amendment process."

~ Mark R. Levin

Source: page 38, "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto."

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Mark Levin is a conservative talk radio host. He currently practices law in the private sector, and is head of the Landmark Legal Foundation. (About the Mark Levin Show)

June 21, 2017

Arlington County Auditor to Put Citizens First

According to a report today by the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey, "As he embarks on his first full fiscal year on the job, the Arlington County Board’s auditor said he aims to put the needs of the public first as he reviews county-government spending processes."

McCaffrey continued, writing:

"In remarks at the June 20 County Board meeting, Chris Horton told board members he would be “citizen-centric – looking at things from the perspective of community members, not just from the perspective of managers.”

"Horton last November was hired as the auditor, after the first occupant of that position left after six months to move to California. The position is just one of four staff slots reporting directly to County Board members, rather than through the county manager.

"Horton, who came from a similar position with Fairfax County Public Schools, said his role would be one of an honest broker.

“I’ve got to be someone who is collaborative in working with people to strive to get mutually beneficial solutions,” he said. 'We’re all on the same team.'"

The County Auditor's remarks to the Arlington County Board were made in conjunction with two items on the Board's recessed meeting yesterday. The first was approval of the 8-page Annual Audit Work Plan for FY 2018. In addition, the Board made changes to the charge for the Independent County Auditor (both original and revised available from the recessed meeting's agenda).

McCaffrey also wrote, "County Board member John Vihstadt, who pressed for the position, said (the auditor's hiring) has proved a net positive despite a somewhat rocky first 18 months," e.g., the previous auditor left after six months for a job in California.

Kudos to the County Auditor's taxpayer-focused attitude!

Growls readers who have questions about the County Auditor's FY 2018 work plan are urged to write  to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 20, 2017

A Thought about Political Correctness

"Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates."

~ Camille Paglia

Source: her June 15, 2017 interview by Jonathan V. Last, posted at the Weekly Standard.

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Camille Paglia is the University Professor of Humanities & Media Studies at the University of the Arts. She has authored seven books, and has written numerous articles on art, literature, popular culture, feminism, politics and religion for publications around the world. (Profile, The University of the Arts)

June 19, 2017

EPA Administrator Ends $1 Million Gym Membership Program

At the Washington Free Beacon today, Elizabeth Harrington writes, "The Environmental Protection Agency has ended a nearly $1 million program that provided gym memberships for employees.

Harrington went on to explain:

"The new administration under EPA administrator Scott Pruitt identified the gym memberships as an abuse of taxpayer dollars. Examples of the program's misuse included $15,000 for gym memberships for 37 EPA scientists in Las Vegas last year.

""We have ended taxpayer-funded fitness centers at EPA; a program that was costing American taxpayers $900,000 per year," said EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. "Disinvestment in using federal funds for EPA fitness centers will allow the agency to invest this money in core activities to protect the environment."

"Pruitt vowed an end to taxpayer-funded programs after the Washington Free Beacon report on the agency spending $15,000 on gym memberships in Las Vegas, earlier this year. Employees in the U.S. Environmental Science Division billed taxpayers $399 each for gym memberships, even though employees had access to a "state-of-the-art" gym on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) campus.

"The campus gym includes a relaxation room with massage chairs, fitness assessments, personal trainers for hire, a registered dietician, a spa and leisure pool, indoor jogging, and a "gender neutral bathroom."

While the cancellation of this $1 million boondoggle is more symbolic than real, given the federal government's $4 trillion budget, the action does send the message the White House is serious about eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them about the steps they have taken to hold the federal government accountable for the tax dollars they receive. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 2017
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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister