It’s Not Getting Any Better, Folks!

By Loudoun Insider

Dear Lord.  While Herr Hatrick whines about never getting enough to the Chamber of Commerce, comes news that Loudoun County will start its 2011 budget deliberations at $124 million in the red.  Tax rate of $1.50 anyone?  That’s what Hatrick would impose on us if he had his way.  Something’s gotta give, people.


Comments

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    LTM article:

    http://www.loudountimes.com/index.php/news/article/hatrick_proposes_1.6_billion_school_budget_by_2019/

    Someone commented there and said something along the lines of “great, a 122% cost increase for a 45% enrollment increase”! Yep, that looks like traditional LCPS math to me!

    And don’t expect commercial real estate to bail out residential – Loudoun One going belly up is just one symptom:

    http://www.loudountimes.com/index.php/news/article/one_loudoun_facing_foreclosure999/

  • FedUp says:

    Well, at least SAT scores are on the rise:

    http://leesburgtoday.com/articles/2010/09/16/schools/905asat091610.txt

    Not bad for a school system that was supposed to have been “dismantled” by all the budget “cuts” the past few years!

  • edmundburkenator says:

    He really must go.

  • Independent Republican says:

    “The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling” Nope just the school budget :)

  • Ashburn Watcher says:

    Did some staffer say at a recent BOS meeting that part-time LCPS workers, even those working as little as 17 hours/week are getting FULL benefits? Maybe I mis-understood, but that sounds just crazy. What does that cost the taxpayers? We really need to elect some business-minded folks to these positions.

  • sally says:

    1 in 7 live in poverty and many kept out of this statistic because so many on government relief:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/16/AR2010091602698_pf.html

    Who is going to pay the bills? Government continues to demand more taxes, and at the same time imposes more and more onerous regulation/putting businesses our of work, forcing businesses to downsize, killing jobs….

    We have to get back to basics…

  • sally says:

    From the last part of the Wash Post article about poverty:

    “Some of those who have struggled to find work are making their way to Good Shepherd Alliance, a food pantry in Loudoun County, which is one of the country’s wealthiest jurisdictions.

    Vickie Koth, executive director, said she has grown accustomed to hearing clients say, almost as if dazed by their dizzying descent, that they used to volunteer at nonprofits like hers. The downturn will end some day, she noted, and hard times should be remembered.

    “A lot of the community is really seeing this issue for the first time,” she said. “. . . Once this turns around, I hope that people will remember what we went through so that our communities will be more open to serving those around us who are in need.”

  • Alter of Freedom says:

    What is LC current school enrollment and 2010 census population estimation exactly? How much of the tax revevue is generated from individuals v. business community and what are the current cash proffer rates (if any) for the County?

  • Lovettsville Lady says:

    Let’s not forget the 21 new schools that he wants! http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/16/AR2010091605931.html

  • Debbie Rose says:

    It may be the lawyer in me coming out, but I’d like to see the data that supports the conclusion that there will be 92,000 students. Is he simply looking at the past enrollment figures and projecting out? Or, is there any consideration of other factors such as new housing projects, county growth rates, ect..
    And, yes, why is it that adding less than 30,000 to the 60,000 plus current enrollment needs a more than double budget?
    Hatrick is out of his mind!

  • sally says:

    From the Purcellville Gazette:

    “The Clerk of the Court for Loudoun County, Gary Clemens, recently released last month’s foreclosure rates along with those from January to July. In total, there have been 782 foreclosures to date, not including September.

    June recorded the highest number of foreclosures with 117 homes foreclosed on, while
    July was the lowest with 74. On average, the County is seeing 97.75 homes returned to the lenders.

    Source: Loudoun County Government”

  • sally says:

    Republican proposes bill that would furlough federal workers for 2 weeks.

    http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=35&sid=2055749

  • FedUp says:

    21 new schools is a pipe dream. The reason he wants so many new schools is because he refuses to build bigger schools and add on to existing schools.

    Taxpayers need to send him a message by voting down the bond referendum for a new elementary school this Fall. They will still find alternative financing and build it, but they just might get the hint we’re tired of this BS.

  • BlackOut says:

    FedUp, I hope you’re on the firing line when those 800 elementary school students come looking for a place to be educated, in that elementary school you don’t want to build. It’s not Hatrick that is given birth to all these babies. He certainly should get heat for other things, but not for the growth of students.

  • Barbara Munsey says:

    Debbie, projection is two-pronged, consisting of building permist/approvals and cohort survival.

    They have a formula they run each year’s grade cohort against that adjusts for in- and out-migration, and then run that against rate of growth.

    Their macro numbers have been within about 1-2% of projection each year.

    Their micro numbers are sometimes way off, because what they project in terms of new schools runs headlong into the boundary fight, plus grandfathering, so a new school might open under projection, but the overall enrollment figures are usually dead on.

    Fed up, the bulk of tax revenue is from personal property.

    Cash proffers/capital facilities contributions are high, maybe highest in state now.

    Macht nicht, if nobody’s building anything ATM.

    Saw this cartoon yesterday, and it captures my major concerns about the school system/budget:

    http://www.caglecartoons.com/viewimage.asp?ID={3346E1C6-0870-457D-9DF8-2A3BD8CB5EC2}

    (hope the link works!)

  • sally says:

    PW County’s enrollment dropped significantly (in the face of projected increase) when it decided to take a stand on illegal immigrants…

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    The big problem has been build, build, build, build. Loudoun should have downzoned the entire county significantly years ago. The pace of residential growth has been unsustainable without hefty taxes. Of course we can try to nibble at the edges and make some reductions, but make no mistake, we will all be paying for the pace of past growth for years to come.

  • FedUp says:

    BO – Let me repeat; the school can still be built even if the bond referendum fails. Financing can still be obtained through VPSA or maybe they can apply the latest Obama handout towards construction costs.

    It would be a huge embarrassment for the School Board because they put in a lot of effort to win support for the bond issues. Every parent I’ve talked to said they got a sales pitch at their back to school night. Nobody is arguing we should not provide seats, but there are less costly ways of doing so that they refuse to consider. That is the message taxpayers should send to them by voting no.

  • Barbara Munsey says:

    fed up, the message needs to be sent on policy changes–land use policies render a great deal of land unusable (and the private policy of protesting everything under the sun renders most of the supposedly useable UNusable. Saw something very interesting in a southern sustainable farms newsletter not long ago–one of the farms that protests anything west of 15 and north of 7 on a regular basis as destroying the ability of the salt of the earth to feed the earth, actually has compost as their primary crop), and as far as the buildings go, there are any number of requirements via fire code, ADA etc that have to be met.

    I’d like to see more of the new buildings used as revenue generators–concert venues, meeting space, adult ed, which they already do to some degree, but the colocation as rec facilities carves out a lot of time that could generate more. Tough call.

    LI, most of that was over before you got here, as in approvals. Most of it was over before I got here. Some people believe it was over the minute they built Dulles–did anyone honestly think it would remain the international private airport of the local priavte airstrip crowd in perpetuity?

    We’ve also had the discussion before–if you have grossly restrictive zoning, you end up with a housing authority in order not to get slapped with “exclusionary zoning”, so in the end it becomes a trade of one bureaucracy for another. Assisted housing has as many entitlements and unfunded mandates as schools do.

    I’d like to see schools get back to plain old education, and leave the envirosocialjusticeenrichment out of it–we might see quite a drop in cost if we changed the three Rs back to reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, and let them learn reduce reuse recycle at the church of their choice.

  • Barbara Munsey says:

    p.s. re VPSA–I may be mistaken, but if voters deny a school at the ballot box, isn’t there a two year limit before an entity can go to VPSA? used to be something like that, but I may be remembering wrong.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    Barb, I’m not talking 50 acre zoning over the entire county – let’s just cut all zones in half density-wise. There would still be plenty of CPR profit making opportunities out there, and it wouldn’t bankrupt the rest of us.

  • sally says:

    LI, perhaps if we spent the money we had wisely, and planned wisely, you would not have this position to harp on…the schools have wasted, just thrown away gazillions–when times were good, they were addicted to bigger and better, the newest and latest, glitz and glamour..trips to China … fancy programs…

    If we got back to just the basics, and stopped throwing money away–the County govt does it too, with this ridiculous “science” to support Possible RPA buffers over half the county… stopped silly lawsuits, like the Madison fiasco, still going on, the suits in Pville… got a good handle on sensible site acquisition for our schools, and really prioritized our spending with cost/benefit analysis to target our money to make the most of it, we could do well, but this board has been woefully inept at budget issues, planning issues, tax issues, and spending wisely to get results, not just the junk they have passed like the energy plan, etc..

    If we could just operate with common sense and treat our public budget like we treat our family budgets and don’t pretend it is a bottomless pit, then we would be fine…but it takes courage and vision and an ability to articulate the end goal, and we simply do not have enough with the common sense to actually make our local government function well.

  • sally says:

    Also, we need to encourage business instead of fighting with it like it is the enemy….

  • Sarah S says:

    Sam Adamo approved an invoice of $5,000 for an appraisal of the 10-acre Burgess residential property in 2007. The property had one house on a 3+ acre lot and 2 adjacent 3-acre lots (interestingly those two vacant lots had previously been a family subdivision, gifted to the kids, then ownership reverted back to the original owner. Then, in 2008, that property was re-appraised and the invoice was $4,000.

    I know nothing about real estate appraisal going rates, but at first glance that seems 10x higher than typical for the original appraisal. On top of that, I would think a re-appraisal would be an hour or two of work – not $4,000′s worth.

    If that is reasonable, please advise. If not, consider this, if LCPS is paying this contractor 10x what is reasonable, what about the hundreds of other contracts they award?

  • sally says:

    My understanding is it currently costs $600 to have a lot and home appraised for a Bank of America loan today–and empty lots could cost the same, per lot. Not sure if there would be one appraisal required for one lot, and then that appraisal could be used for the second lot, which you would think would be the same price, with maybe minor adjustments depending on how many gallons per minute for the well, how many bedrooms the septic perc’d for, or road frontage, or topography/views..if a driveway needed to be built, etc..

    Todays’ cost for the appraisal of the three properties should not exceed $1800 to meet Bank of America’s and the federal government’s high appraisal standards. Don’t know if the School Board has more exacting appraisal standards?

    My husband has colleagues who do this kind of work for Bank of America, for refinances, etc.. and the rules for appraisals have gotten significantly stricter, with more paperwork, more justification, more thorough analysis of comps, pictures are required of each bathroom, the kitchen and all bedrooms, etc…

  • Sarah S says:

    By the way, in response to our FOIA for LCPS’ expenses incurred studying HS/MS-10 and ES-25 sites, no other real estate appraisal invoices were provided. This proves no other properties were ever seriously considered by LCPS for these schools. That includes the Herbert Miller property which Adamo stated in his 2006 response to the Millers that their land wasn’t worth their $26k/acre asking price, nor serious about the 2009 offering of the McDonough Assemblage, nor serious about the Crim property in Hillsboro that would accomodate an expansion of the adjacent ES so many want to close. LCPS is quick to spend as much taxpayer money as needed, to get what they want.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    I guess they need to pay that much to get the bullshit costs “justified” that they proposed to pay for that property. They were going to pay 1.3 million, I think, for that site which just sold for $600,000. LCPS land acquisition is practically criminal in my opinion. More people should be outraged.

  • Sarah S says:

    Sally, OK, so if you think $1,800 might be more in line, how about a re-appraisal…Is it be reasonable to pay $4,000 to re-appraise the same exact property the following year?

  • sally says:

    I can tell you that if you were refinancing, a bank will only accept an appraisal that it had ordered; they are no longer accepting or considering appraisals independently contracted for…

    Also, in this climate anything older than 1 year has to be completely re-done, and appraisals in this market are very difficult, require more time to justify, and are not the quick appraisals of the past where there were tons of recent comps.

    So, I think they were justified to get a complete re-appriasal.

  • “Did some staffer say at a recent BOS meeting that part-time LCPS workers, even those working as little as 17 hours/week are getting FULL benefits? ”

    You didn’t misunderstand it. That’s around $4-$5MIL of the costs.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    Oh Dear God! Read this tear jerker in the WaPo. The LCPS campaign for higher taxes is in top gear:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/17/AR2010091706987.html

  • edmundburkenator says:

    “Doing more with less is akin to standing still, and in an increasingly competitive world, standing still is simply not good enough.”

    This remark is simply stupid. Can someone please talk me out of the now active dislike I have for this fellow’s positions and statements?

    Blackout?

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    News flash – Loudoun already has the highest tax rate in the state. Everyone else is doing more with less. Please let this guy get this through his obviously very thick skull!

  • FedUp says:

    Ed – I think Blackout is trolling NovaTownHall today.

    Is he really doing more with less? Relative to the past 3 years and on a per-pupil basis, yes; but historically, per-pupil spending is still very high.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    Ed,

    I think the man is doing what he thinks is his job. Advocating for as many resources for the school system as he can possibly get. It is the job of the SB and BOS to offset this advocacy position – I suspect they will:

    “While it is $30 million less than the shortfall county leaders faced this time last year, supervisors Wednesday were presented with a grim picture in the initial projections for the FY12 budget.”

    I will not get apoplectic on this issue (or on Hatrick) until I see what comes out of the SB at least.

  • edmundburkenator says:

    Eric, that is way to look at his role. I just don’t think he should not be acting like a politician. If he is arguing for $1B by saying we need $2B — that kind of argument belongs on the used car lot.

    He is an administrator.

    I don’t think he should be out at all. He’s using fear — just like the current nutty crop of Republicans do — as leverage.

    Have you read the mission statement of the School Board? NO FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY to the taxpayer. It’s not there. The only people between Hatrick and your wallet are the BOSs.

  • edmundburkenator says:

    That is ONE way to look at his role…

  • BlackOut says:

    ED, I think it’s time “Fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer” is added to the mission statement.

  • edmundburkenator says:

    Agreed!

  • FedUp says:

    Of course Hatrick should advocate for the funds he NEEDS, but he needs to be realistic. We know the game he plays and it is to get as much money out of the taxpayers as he possibly can, regardless of whether he NEEDS it or not.

    While he would like to have $1.6 billion by 2019, that represents an increase of enrollment growth plus about 5% a year, which is double the rate of inflation over the past 10 years. That’s just not possible without major tax increases and I don’t think the public will go for it, so he is not serving the public well by continuing to fight and employ scare tactics.

  • Hatrick made a tactical error a few years ago. When the referendum for his Taj MaHal didn;t fly, ol’ Hatrick went to his mattress, and pulled out $41 MIL and built it anyway. That was then, this is now. How much do you think he has squirreled away for another rainy day?? A $100MIL????
    As long as dumbasses continue to let him get away with it, he has no reason to stop.
    And for the record….the $4MIL to $5MIL we’re paying for part-time employees in the school system who recieve full time benefits….would have easily covered the two day furlough.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Eric, that is way to look at his role. I just don’t think he should not be acting like a politician. If he is arguing for $1B by saying we need $2B — that kind of argument belongs on the used car lot.”

    And if he argued for $1B when he really needed $1B he would get $500M. Yes, it belongs on the used car lot but there is very little difference between buying a used car and the budget deliberation process these days.

  • FedUp says:

    Monk, I remember at budget reconciliation time earlier this year, Hatrick pulled a few million out of nowhere when one of his wasteful programs was about to be cut.

    The $124 million FY12 “shortfall” is based on the school budget increasing by $100 million. That’s about a 14% increase for a 5% enrollment increase at a time when inflation has been practically nonexistent for the past few years. Unbelievable.

    “…but there is very little difference between buying a used car and the budget deliberation process these days.”

    That is a sad statement, Troll, but very true. It’s time for a change in leadership over at the Ashburn palace.

  • edmundburkenator says:

    Eric, we agree the budget process is broken. But he had a hand in breaking it.

    He has lost credibility with this methodology.

  • Elder Berry says:

    LI, it was predictable a decade ago what would happen to Loudoun’s tax rate if residential development was not immediately and severely curtailed at that time and you know it. At one board meeting Sustainable Loudoun, which most Republicans at that time called some kind of commie plot, presented a white paper to the BOS that showed what had happened to the tax rate in Fairfax and Prince William at the height of their growth spurts (a rapid and then long-lasting significant rise in tax rates as well as assessments) and projected the same kind of result for Loudoun.

    So Eugene can’t claim he wasn’t warned, he was in office at the time, and the facts were on record. Far from being any kind of a taking, a severe downzoning then was the only thing that could have put a lid on our school expenses and our taxes. But no, the process got dragged out by protests and then derailed by the new board and by lawsuits, and voila we got the inevitable result. You don’t like your taxes you can blame Jack Shockey, Barbara Munsey and Bruce Tulloch (who put in an appearance at the Bay Act hearing) and Eugene and everyone who showed up at the two hundred hearings screaming about takings. I saw driving up my taxes by ignorant protests as a taking.

  • FedUp says:

    Elder Berry, I’ve seen that graph of the Fairfax tax rate history in Jim Burton’s “A Case Study in Unbridled Growth.” I can’t understand how looking at just one part of the tax burden equation really proves anything. It’s like trying to calculate how many gallons of gas you need for a trip when all you know is the miles per gallon rating of your car.

    Besides, the graph indicates the tax rate was on a flat or declining trend since 1970 while the county was adding hundreds of thousands of people a decade. It looks like he’s trying to prove growth pays for itself.

  • Fedup….throw another facet into that discussion. Thruout a couple of terms, Developers were allowed to “skate” on the proffers they provided. In allowing those developers to push for more and more infrastructure into their “dirt bonds” , often pushed to the end of the projects….they’d go ahead and build their main objective, then turn around and file bankruptcy on the LLC before the bonds were met…and reopen their doors as a “virgin” LLC to side-step responsibility. Durring the BOS process, many times, they were handled with kid gloves – and the proper amount of proffers was not demanded from them in exchange for their project approval.
    The schools and infrastructure costs that they were allowed to skate on, we had to pick up as taxpayers.

  • sally says:

    Monk, yes, many mistakes were made. In fact, the County Attorney apparently took proffers that later were determined to be unenforceable. Default on bonds to perform does not excuse suing on them, even if the LLC is bankrupt, those bonds required sureties. and the surety/insurance company could have been sued. Many of the “mistakes” that previous Boards have been blamed for are in actuality the result of the inexperience and incompetence of our staff and staff recommendations/staff drawn proffers/staff drawn agreements and bonds/incompetently drafted Ordinances and map changes, etc.

    The process is controlled by Staff and ultimately we need a very business/agreement/development savvy staff, especially in our County Attorney. It is true that we have made some very bad deals, and gotten the short stick with many of our projects, and we could have done a lot better with our proffers, etc. However, a lot of that falls at the feet of staff.

    Just like the CBPO, we have a very inexperienced staff making all the presentations, responsible for all the major decisions. The County Attorney and other senior staff, like Julie Pastor, have been disengaged, and that has cost us all.

  • sally says:

    One other thing Monk, as much as you criticize the last Board, they insisted on proffers being performed up front. Example, Loudoun One.

    Greenvest proposed to build hundreds of millions of improvements up front. That would have sunk them before the economy, if they had gotten approved.

    Now Loudoun One cannot complete what would have been profitable to them, and one reason they are in this position is: the last Board insisted the proffered public improvements be completed first.

    So as much as you have blogged that the last Board was so soft on “developers” I honestly think it was Boards before them who were soft. I know you do not like the rural rules for most of Catoctin, however, I submit to you it is a nominal difference between the 10 acre zoning you wanted because of all the design and performance criteria that staff put into the Ordinance, that sandbags the cluster option, in my opinion. Mick Staton was excellent on our budget, and Jim Clem was unfairly smeared–he too is a businessman with common sense.

    Steve Snow’s mistake was he was very outspoken against the PEC, making himself a big target, and he had too little guile or diplomacy to work the politics. I personally thought it was an unwise decision to go to work for Deitze, even though he was not supposed to be doing anything in Loudoun–just set him up for lots of loud screaming, and more destruction of his reputation.

  • FedUp says:

    Speaking of benefits, the county expects to spend an extra $5 million this year for retiree benefits. The OPEB fund was started a few years ago and now is up to $20 million a year.

    The reality is that benefits need be trimmed to what private sector employees get. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has talked about this and said the model of lavish benefits for government employees can no longer be sustained. Defined benefit pensions, for example, have all but disappeared in the private sector, but are alive and well in the government sector and costing taxpayers a fortune.

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