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Fiscal Responsibility and the Arlington Public Schools

Two items in this week's Arlington Sun Gazette (August 3-9) are worth the attention of Arlington County taxpayers who believe in fiscal responsibility. They involve the proposed purchase of the single-family property at 1721 North Culpeper Street.

The first, on page 7 under School Notes, says. "Arlington School Board mulls purchase of home adjacent to Glebe Elementary." The Sun Gazette staff news item provides the context:

"Arlington School Board members on Aug. 17 will consider a staff proposal to purchase a single-family home adjacent to Glebe Elementary School, which would be torn down and the lot used for emergency-vehicle access to the elementary school.

"School-system staff has proposed purchasing the home at 1721 North Culpeper St. for $525,000, while setting aside an additional $50,000 for closing and demolition costs.

"Currently, the only vehicular access to the school is via an easement from Capital Life Church, which funnels traffic to and from North Glebe Road.

"If the home is purchased, the land would be used only for access by emergency vehicles, school officials said.

"The prospective purchase drew some pushback during a public-comment session, in part because the school system plans on spending nearly $125,000 more for the property than it sold for this past January, when a Falls Church-based investment firm purchased it for $403,655, according to county-government records.

"John Chadwick, the school system’s assistant superintendent for facilities, said the purchase made sense, since the school system has no vehicular access outside the church easement."

The second item, the more important in our humble opinion, is the first "Highs & Lows" on the opinion page. The editor uses the space to argue against the staff proposal -- "no doubt well-meaning" -- "from Arlington Public Schools staff to purchase a single-family home adjacent to Glebe Elementary School," for use "as an emergency-vehicle-only access point to the school."

Here's the editor's argument, which should cause the the Arlington School Board to give serious consideration to voting against the proposed purchase. According to the editorial:

"Call us fiscal reactionaries if you will, but given all the current and pending capacity needs the school system must contend with, spending $575,000 on this seems decidedly in the “nice-to-have” category rather than the “must-have” category. Student safety will not be endangered if the purchase doesnt take place, and will be only marginally enhanced if it does.

"School Board members are slated to vote on the matter on Aug. 17. It will be a very good test to see whether board members simply talk the talk of pinching every penny, or will walk the walk of tough decisions."

Growls readers who are concerned about the priorities and fiscal responsibility practiced by the Arlington Public Schools are encouraged to write 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.

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