Hatrick's Raise Unjustified
With very little public discussion and without offering the public an opportunity to provide input, the Loudoun County School Board voted 6 to 3 to increase the pay of the county's highest paid "public servant" by nearly 10 percent ["School Board Gives Hatrick Pay Increase," July 15.]
While I have a lot of respect for Dr. Hatrick, a $15,000 pay increase--which includes a $5,000 contribution to his retirement fund--is unjustified. What accomplishments justify this increase? Could it have been our students' performance on the Standards of Learning: Only one school out of over 40 exceeded the minimum passing standards. Could it have been the "balanced" operating budget the administration produced for the next school year: Slashing funding for reading, mathematics, and science while appropriating additional funds for a television studio and additional administrative staff?
This also comes less than a month after $30,000 was "discovered" to pay other senior administrators. And lest we forget, this is the same School Board that approved a paltry 5 percent pay increase for our teachers for the upcoming year.
But this is not the first large pay increase the majority on this board has approved. Since 1995, the superintendent's pay has increased 32 percent, School Board members' pay has increased 25 percent, and the teachers, the most important group in educating our children, increased 20 percent (and continue to be among the lowest paid in the region).
Voters will have an opportunity on Tuesday, Nov. 2, to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the School Board members that supported this pay raise: Candyce Cassell (Sugarland Run), Susan Navatta Hembach (Broad Run) and Wendall Fisher (At Large) are seeking reelection and are in contested races. Jeffrey Maged is the only current board member seeking reelection that did not support the pay increase.
For Loudoun County
Keep Rowing on Route 15
Loudoun County sponsored a community meeting entitled Update on Route 15 Safety Improvements on July 14 at the Lucketts Community Center, with about 68 people in attendance.
Under normal circumstances, one would say this was a good turnout, but the severity of the problem on Route 15 necessitates a major involvement by all citizens of the area and on a continual basis. Let's not become complacent, thinking that all the oars are in the water so we don't have to row any longer. As travelers of this still dangerous stretch, we need to spur government officials to expedite the multiyear timetable for resolution of the public safety project that extends all the way to 2004 for completion.
We need to report to state police the tag numbers of drivers who choose to pass on the double line or the shoulder, tailgate and otherwise violate Virginia's traffic laws. Citizen activism through the Ruritan Club of Lucketts has gotten us this far with a reduced and safer speed limit of 45 mph, wide markings of the road's edge, more restricted passing zones and greatly stepped-up patrolling by state and county police that has resulted in over 1,000 citations being written since the program began.
Hopefully we will be able to identify this incremental revenue source as a counterbalance to the cost of the $10 million-plus improvement project, which, of course, is inconsequential compared to the American lives that will be saved in the years ahead.
I was disappointed, however, that a local business person, the owner of Heider Nurseries, who operates a retail produce/nursery store on Route 15 just south of Route 663, took the opportunity to rail against her main local competitor, John Whitmore, of Prosperwell Farm.
I must say the animated speech and theatrics were worthy more of an afternoon soap opera. To include placing about 20 acres of arable farmland as a parking area to get produce shoppers off Route 15, Mr. Whitmore has placed numerous brightly lettered signs to alert drivers--many from Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania (who we will assume know how to read, and I won't comment on their road manners at this time)--to use the spacious parking lot on the northeast side of his operation. We know how to land a man on the moon, but we haven't quite figured out how to wrest control of a passing vehicle and direct its final landing spot. Maybe in the New Millennium. As a citizen of the area, I must say that the Heiders should be wary of living in a glass house, since the postage-stamp area their store has for parking right off a heavily traveled road causes many a slowdown and backup during the day, not to mention on a partially blind curve.
Maybe the Heiders can get one of the neighboring farmers like Mr. Whitmore to lease them an acre of parched Loudoun farmland for parking to reduce their own potential safety hazard. United we stand, divided we fall.
Let's work together, folks. I'd like to see any one of us go out today and make a living at farming, regardless of how much expertise or capital we employ.
The 1998 Rural Plan of the Loudoun Rural Economic Development Task Force was firmly embraced by such Route 15 safety proponents as Board of Supervisors Chairman Dale Polen Myers and Supervisor Helen Marcum--both farmers from way back--and the majority of all board members. We need viable rural enterprises in Loudoun County. Such agribusiness can generate substantial net tax revenues in excess of any demand on county services.
So when you're passing a produce stand that may cause you to hit the brakes and exert extra caution, remember that there is a depression in most agricultural commodities today, and without supplemental income of any sort, Loudoun's farmer may go the way of summer rain. Tolerance, consideration and patience--qualities Americans had better come to reembrace or we're destined to follow in the footsteps of the Roman Empire.
DAVID W. YOUNG
A Worthy Rural Investment
Supervisor Steve Whitner's characterization of the purchase of development rights program as nothing more than welfare for the rich and another burdensome tax is vintage Whitner ranting ["Paying to Keep County Rural an Option," July 8]. I believe everybody in the county knows that when it comes to taxes, any kind of taxes, Whitner is a governmental Luddite.
Whitner has passed himself off as the defender of our pocketbooks from overburdening and unnecessary taxation by the county. However, his support for unrestrained free-market development has had exactly the opposite result. The county has to reach farther into our pockets, not really because they want to: they've got to. Due to the corrosive effects of sprawl, they don't have much choice to do anything else.
Whitner calls PDRs insidious. What I find insidious (and obscene) are policies that let the "free-market" forces of the development industry have free reign and run riot through the fiscal stability of Loudoun County, without counterbalancing policies to protect and stabilize localities and citizens from the negative effects of that very same development.
Even if some wealthy landowners benefit from the PDR program, as Whitener implies, so what? It's irrelevant! The effect of PDRs is to the good of the county, and it's money well spent. It's a positive long- and short-term investment. It's paying a little to save a lot. The negative results are there for all to see: the need for infrastructure, how to pay for it, and the effects on the countryside.
On the other hand, the county doesn't have to do much for cows, horses, trees and vegetables, whether they belong to rich or poor landowners. You don't have to build roads or outer beltways for them, or libraries, or parks and community centers, or provide other social services. Schools don't have to be built, staffed or maintained. Taxes don't have to be increased or bonds floated.
Those who directly benefit from sprawl: Developers, building trades and home builder associations, large businesses and high-tech corporations and [real estate] interests, all have cozy relationships with the state legislature. They fight any and all attempts to ease the burden on the citizen by dropping bags of money on Richmond (money they'll get back through the very beneficial actions of their friends in the legislature). As a result, corrective legislation is sidetracked, held up in committee, or left to die in some committee chair's IN basket. The citizen gets the bill.
I'm not advocating a back-to-the-land or nature movement. What I'm saying is that these are viable, valuable and necessary business operations. And if we are giving tax breaks and other considerations to companies like AOL, UUNet, Orbital and Baan, there should be equal consideration to the working farm and agricultural businesses, whose operations, I find, are more beneficial and less corrosive to the county in the long run.
PDRs may not be right for every situation and landholder. It's not a blanket solution. But had they been in place when this board took office, the county might not be worrying about the future effects and costs of what will happen to Kirkpatrick Farm, or Shenstone Farm, or the Laycock Farm, or Brown's Farm, or--anon.
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