No Reason for Higher Rate

The recent straw vote by Loudoun County supervisors to raise the tax rate by six cents in one year is outrageous. The School Board screams every year that it doesn't get the funding it wants.

Several years ago, the county budget office said there was a surplus and granted everything on the School Board's wish list. What's different this year is that spending is out of control, and priorities need to be made.

The entire county budget should be reviewed from the bottom up to see where cuts can be made and spending is realistic. After reading the county's proposed budget year after year, I find many projects where I have difficulty seeing a real benefit to the average citizen for the funding devoted to them.

Anyone who opens their eyes can see how the county payroll has grown out of control over the last four years. At the same time, I am reading about a possible tax rate increase, I read where Loudoun will get more state money for education than anticipated this year and next.

So why are the supervisors using the "education" excuse for raising the property tax rate? School budget funding should not be considered a separate pot but should be looked at as part of the entire county budget.

Any tax rate hits seniors particularly hard, and to date, I still have seen no relief provided to this sector, which gets absolutely no benefit out of paying taxes to fund a huge school budget.

Since this is an election year for the Board of Supervisors, I cannot believe that members would even consider raising the tax rate, especially since they also continue to raise the assessed values of homeowner properties, creating a double increase in money to be paid out in the future.

Please stop the rampant taxing and spending of the average citizen in Loudoun.

Mary Jane Spence


Smart Growth Is a Reality

Your article "Density Limits Only Add to Sprawl" [Page A1, March 9] managed to miss the point completely about this region's efforts to control sprawl by reducing density.

First of all, we know what traffic and congestion we have. We can only imagine how much worse it would be if Montgomery, Fairfax, Prince William and now Loudoun hadn't undertaken at least some serious efforts to curb sprawl. Had Prince William not created its now-threatened "rural crescent," had Montgomery not created its "rural agricultural reserve," we might be facing traffic that would massively exceed current backups.

Second, your reporter says that one house per three acres is "protected from typical suburban development" and calls such areas "rural." This is certainly not what today's smart-growth community calls either rural or protected. Instead, it is a pernicious form of large-lot sprawl that arose from a misguided effort to reduce density to some political compromise that wouldn't offend developers.

In Loudoun, planners and voters recognized that three-acre subdivisions in rural areas were not saving farmland or preventing the ills of sprawl and decided to do away with them. Instead, Loudoun has taken the bold but necessary step of defining truly livable and workable suburban communities in appropriate locations and truly rural areas in others. This is the real solution to sprawl, to preventing cross-region commutes and preserving open space. It encourages a real rural economy and focuses development where infrastructure and facilities already exist.

And this brings us to the third factor your article ignored, which picks up on threads from the first two: Efforts to control sprawl in our region have undoubtedly contributed to redevelopment and revitalization of our inner city and inner suburbs, which uncontrolled sprawl might have left to further decay.

The curbs on sprawl that your article spurns were the very actions that sparked a turnaround in the inner core. The "new downtown" in the District, the rebirth of nightlife in the city's Adams Morgan neighborhood, the influx of downtown restaurants and entertainment venues and the development and redevelopment of Metro-oriented downtown areas such as Ballston and Clarendon are the desired and desirable results of curbing sprawl in the infrastructure-poor outer fringes.

Curbing development in the fringes makes the existing inner core more worthy of consideration for both housing and jobs. Concentrating development makes mass transit practicable. So, please, while you blame sprawl-busting (instead of developer greed) for the rush to build in West Virginia, at least give credit where credit is due for smart growth's positive results.

Valerie Kelly


Misguided Intentions

Here we go again. But this time it's a parents organization that blew it, not the county school administration, the state legislature, ex-Gov. Jim Gilmore or the School Board (not yet, anyway).

This entire "crosses on bricks" fiasco ["Dispute Flares Over Crosses on Brick Path," Loudoun Extra, March 16) smacks of the Virginia legislature trying to push traditional majority Christian-style prayer on all of the state's children with the minute of silence law two years ago.

However, the intentions of the parents organization are probably much different insofar as they were, most likely, just blindly doing what comes naturally in a society and county that is predominantly Christian.

But that doesn't make it right. Many proponents of the cross would say it's just symbolic of a school-sanctioned activity, the Bible Club, but whether there should even be a Bible Club in a public school is a related, but entirely weightier, matter altogether.

Offering to put a cross on a brick and picturing a cross as the only "religious" choice for an extra $5 was flat out insensitive to those who practice other religions or who choose to practice no religion. In addition, it may be a violation of the separation of church and state guaranteed under the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Why? Because this school "Walk of Fame" is on public property maintained by all taxpayers. And because it clearly demonstrates a preference for one religion over another (another possible constitutional violation). Why not also picture and offer symbols important to other religions?

Here's an idea -- let's get overtly and unnecessarily political in our schools, too. How about a donkey for all you GOP fans? An elephant for all the Dems out there? Big ears for those of you who miss Ross Perot? Perhaps a Viagra pill or a McD's cheeseburger for all of you Dole or Clinton loyalists?

Want to really offer true unabashed freedom of expression? Let's sell bricks with swastikas on them. I'm sure that might raise a small fortune in some circles.

The point is this: It's all or nothing and really should be nothing. Give the people who opted for crosses the option to have their $5 back and no cross on their brick or give them their entire $55 back and call it a day. The only other options are to let this thing get out of hand with everything from Buddhas to leprechauns or put up with and pay for a host of lawsuits from both sides.

Don't we have better things to do with our time and money, like devoting both to improving the basic education we offer our public schoolchildren?

Whoever said "money is the root of all evil" was dead wrong. Religion, which is supposed to be the root of all good, always seems to end up being the root of all strife, whether it be wars or just neighbor against neighbor. And if both of those are not evil, then you can knock me over with a feather, not a brick.

Roy Kupersmith

Potomac Falls