In his Oct. 24 Close to Home column promoting the $297 million Fairfax County school bond referendum, Todd Stottlemeyer asked voters to support the referendum because the number of school trailers has increased from 386 in 1995 to 668 this year. Right fact. Wrong conclusion.
Citizens should vote against the referendum, because bonds do not provide enough revenue to end overcrowding, interest costs are substantial and the operating budget has enough money to fund school construction without bonds.
Each year county supervisors and the school board sell the maximum number of bonds that the county's credit rating allows. The result is that since 1995 the county has spent $144 million more on debt service than it has received from bond sales. That $144 million could have funded a new high school, a new middle school and three new elementary schools. Interest costs are significant too. This year Fairfax County will spend $75 million on interest for bonds.
School construction should be funded from the schools' $1.3 billion operating budget. Mr. Stottlemeyer ignored the fact that during the '80s, per-student spending in the operating budget increased 100 percent even when adjusted for inflation. This increase has given the public schools enough to catch up on school construction and end bond sales. Instead, much of the money has been wasted on ineffective programs that have failed to raise student achievement.
ARTHUR G. PURVES
The writer is an independent candidate for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.