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August 31, 2006

For the Highest Priced Schools, Arlington County Taxpayers Get What?

This afternoon, the Arlington Public Schools released “the results of a preliminary analysis of the school division’s performance related to the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001,” according to this APS press release. Despite having the highest cost-per-pupil in Virginia ($17,923 for the FY 2007 school year), 10 of the 30 schools in the system did not make Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) as defined in the federal law.

Both the press release and the Arlington Sun-Gazette emphasized the results are preliminary, and could change. However, for a school district with the highest cost-per-pupil and among the highest paid teachers, having one third of the schools fail to make AYP seems problematic to say the least. In this regard, it’s not much different than professional sports where the fans of teams with the highest salaries also have the highest expectations before the season begins and only the world championship seems satisfying.

August 30, 2006

Beware Politicians Claiming to be “Moderate”

A recent analysis of the Democratic Leadership Council’s “American Dream Initiative” by Demian Brady of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation proves once again there is no free lunch. The NTUF analysis found that the DLC initiative “leads to $31 billion in new annual federal spending and $250 billion in new taxes.”

One finding from the report says, “The single largest spending hike presented was a $15 billion-a-year “American Dream Grant” to provide federal block grants to states for students pursuing graduate study (the estimate includes only the impact on spending, not on revenues). The DLC’s second priciest agenda item creates a “National Center for Cures” to encourage better communication between private sector research firms and the National Institutes of Health. This would cost $5 billion annually.”

Rather than a National Center for Cures, what the country needs is a way for the country to cure itself of tax-and-spend politicians.

Note: The link is to the press release, but there's a link to the detailed analsysis.

August 28, 2006

An Homogeneous Arlington County? No way!

An analysis of median income by Arlington zip code shows the county’s diversity of income levels. ESRI Business Solutions provides a “no cost” feature that provides limited demographic data by zip code. Consequently, we created a table that compares median household income, household incomes at three levels (under $50K, $50K-$100K, and over $100K), and average home value. The following table compares just two of Arlington’s zip codes (22204 with the lowest median household income and 22207 with the highest median household income) as well as the national averages.

Category/National Average/22204/22207
Total Population/NA/51,134/29,510

Median Household Income/$51,546/$58,650/$126,865
HH Income Under $50K/48.40%/40.20%/13.90%
HH Income $50K -- $100K/31.80%/36.80%/21.80%
HH Income Over $100K/19.80%/23.00%/64.30%
2006 Average Home Value/$264,327/$387,692/$794,093

In addition to showing that even the Arlington zip code with the lowest median income is well above the national average, we were also reminded of the so-called tax relief included in the FY2007 budget, which the County Board touted in their press release earlier this year when they approved the FY2007 budget. They were as pleased as punch to announce they had increased the homeowner grants from $500 to $600, and increased the income cap from $72,000 to $77,407. Looking at the complete analysis makes you wonder who the County Board really thinks they’re helping.

August 27, 2006

Fessin' Up for the $137 Million Error

Friday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, “Top fiscal officials in the Warner administration knew about a major budget mistake involving schools funding for seven months before Gov. Timothy M. Kaine independently learned about the $137 million error.” The newspaper notes, “The crux of the original problem was that tax and finance analysts overestimated the amount of cash available for distribution to school districts in each year of the two-year budget because they did not take into account the speeded-up reduction of the sales tax on groceries.”

Officials of the outgoing Gov. Mark Warner (D) administration knew of the error in December, but failed to notify anyone in the administration of incoming Gov. Tim Kaine (D). John Bennett, now a senior vice president at Virginia Commonwealth University, takes full responsibility for the error, even having convened a meeting to discuss the cause of the problem. Del. Vince Callahan (R-McLean), who requested the review by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission, told the newspaper, “It's embarrassing to the [Warner] administration.”

August 26, 2006

It’s Not Just Arlington County’s Taxes That are Going Up

Last Saturday’s DC Examiner newspaper carried an article by David Francis, which noted that water and sewer rates have nearly double since 1999. Citing a county water utility official, Francis wrote, “Arlington County water and sewer rates have almost doubled in the last seven years” He then noted, “Rates have gone from $4.19 per 1,000 gallons of water in 1999, to $8.00 for the same amount today.”

County officials blamed a litany of causes as to why rates have gone up. While some increases may be legitimate, the county poohbahs should explain in great detail each and every instance when rates go up faster than the general cost of living. Could an Inspector General could get answers to some of these troubling trends?

August 25, 2006

Growling Again

First, our apologies to those who’ve visited Growls over the past month only to find the July 31 posting about Arlington’s ACAP/Head Start program. We are changing hosts, and expect to have things entirely worked out very soon.

In the meantime, we would like to congratulate Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) for being selected August’s Porker of the Month by Citizens Against Government Waste. In naming him, CAGW wrote, “As House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Taylor shows no shame when it comes to flaunting pork. He was even invited to attend an exclusive reception in Asheville, N.C., for the infamous Sparta Teapot Museum. CAGW gave the museum the “Tempest in a Teapot” Oinker Award in its 2006 Congressional Pig Book for the $500,000 earmark it received in the fiscal 2006 Transportation/Treasury/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act. Rep. Taylor has not been shy about his appetite for pork. In a May 2006 letter to the Asheville Citizen-Times, Taylor’s chief of staff, Sean Dalton, proudly compared his boss to Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), two of the biggest porkers in Congress (The Hill, 7/26/2006). Sen. Byrd has embraced his title of “King of Pork,” while Sen. Stevens is well-known for defending the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Anyone who puts Sens. Byrd and Stevens on a pedestal is oblivious to the dire budget realities facing the government.”