Fairfax County is facing a serious situation. The number of school trailers in use across the county has increased from 386 in 1995 to 668 this year. Almost 14,000 children now are being educated in these temporary trailers instead of in classrooms.
This is unacceptable for a county that prides itself on excellence in education, and the situation will worsen unless we construct classrooms and upgrade and maintain the investments we have made in existing schools.
Here are 10 reasons to support the $297 million Fairfax County School bond:
(1) School enrollment is expected to increase by approximately 11,000 students during the next eight years.
(2) The bond will add about 5,300 student "seats" to the 5,600 already under construction.
(3) Approximately $73.8 million will be spent to relieve overcrowding by building new elementary schools and constructing additions to six schools.
(4) An additional $217.2 million will be directed to renewing or planning the renewal of 28 other elementary, middle, and high schools, providing at least partial funding for all renewals remaining on the priority lists.
(5) In addition to renovating classrooms and upgrading technology, renewals will contribute about one-third of the new student seats to be added through this bond.
(6) The bond provides $13.5 million to support growing technology needs -- for schools that are not being renewed -- by upgrading power distribution and cooling systems and making other structural improvements.
(7) All county residents benefit from the school system's positive effect on property values.
(8) The use of bonds avoids diverting funds needed for classroom instruction; bonds also spread the financing of school construction over the improvement's usable life, thereby allowing all users over the years to contribute.
(9) The bond credits back to taxpayers $8.8 million in savings from previously authorized bond projects.
(10) Taxes will not increase, and the county's AAA bond rating will be unaffected.
While this issue is mainly about the quality of education for the children of Fairfax County, it also is a critical economic-development issue. In every survey on economic development ever done, public education is always the No. 1 reason cited by business executives when considering whether to locate or expand in a certain jurisdiction.
The quality of public education in Fairfax County has been -- and can continue to be -- key to our community, but we must support this school bond in order to maintain our economic advantage.
-- Todd A. Stottlemyer
chairs a citizens' group that backs the school bond issue.