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    Letters to the Editor
    Don’t consider community schools as a group

    The LCPS Board has proposed the closure of four elementary schools which have been lumped together as “small western Loudoun elementary schools.” It is inequitable to consider these schools as a group, and each school should be considered separately. There are multiple reasons why Aldie Elementary should not be closed, but rather, expanded.

    First and foremost, the average cost per pupil at Aldie Elementary, $11,090, is below the LCPS average pupil cost of $11,638. Accordingly, an Aldie Elementary student is not costing taxpayers any more money than any other Loudoun student. Second, Aldie Elementary is located in suburban southern Loudoun with a significant amount of new home development. The school is almost at capacity with 131 students and is projected to have 141 students in 2014-2015. If Aldie Elementary’s students are rezoned to other Aldie area elementary schools, e.g. Buffalo Trail and Arcola, those schools will quickly become overcrowded. This will, in turn, require the construction of ES-28 at a much earlier date than otherwise projected costing the county more than $40 million. Why require such an enormous expenditure earlier than necessary when the county can leverage an already fully paid for asset? Why take away student seats in the rapidly growing Dulles South district? Aldie Elementary supporters have submitted a proposal for the expansion of Aldie Elementary. No additional land would need to be purchased to expand Aldie Elementary. It simply does not make any sense to take away student seats when more are needed in the Aldie area.

    Bill Fox (Leesburg) recently stated, “The one thing I wish we would stop doing is grouping all of the small schools together because they’re not the same.” He further noted that Aldie Elementary is located in a part of the county that is experiencing growth. It is for this reason and the others stated above that the LCPS Board should refrain from considering all four small schools as a group and remove Aldie Elementary from the budget cut list.

    Karen A. Kovacs

    Loudoun County

    ‘No’ to debt and closings

    Loudoun County School Board: Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare decide to waste over 800 perfectly viable and fully paid for elementary school seats in four of our schools then turn around the very same year and ask the Loudoun County taxpayers to approve $35 million of new debt to build 900 new elementary school seats (ES-27).

    Do you not realize that this creates $30 million of needless debt and a recurring annual debt service of $2 million for the next 20 years that must be shouldered by the taxpayers of this county and completely wipes out the savings you claim could be [realized] by tossing the 800 fully paid for seats in these four elementary schools?

    Don’t even think about asking us to approve such a move! Don’t you dare!

    Eric Deaver

    Hamilton

    Uninsured harms Virginia

    As a health insurance broker, I spend day-in and day-out helping Virginians understand their options for health insurance coverage in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. We all know that the new health insurance law is incredibly complex, but many are just now learning that it also leaves 400,000 Virginians in what is called a “coverage gap.” Furthermore, because of ACA, Virginia businesses pay more than $2 billion annually in new taxes, which accounts for more than $5 million per day.

    The reality is that having hundreds of thousands of uninsured people in Virginia harms our economy and the related taxes impose significant costs on our businesses. If our elected officials do nothing to close the coverage gap, more than $2 billion paid by Virginia taxpayers will be lost.

    Virginia has a unique opportunity to reject the bad components of the ACA and instead, craft a free market-based, Virginia-specific solution that will cover Virginians who are currently uninsured. I urge our lawmakers to find a solution that protects taxpayers, draws down federal funds and closes the coverage gap in Virginia.

    Jonathan E. Katz

    Virginia Medical Plans, Herndon

    COMMUNITY VOICE: Emotions, not facts, drive budget ‘circus’

    The School Board’s annual budget exercise has become the best three-ring circus in the area, rivaling even the famous Barnum circus acts. From a teary-eyed 8-year-old girl reciting scripted pleas for “full funding,” to the sea of red shirts and signs, to a tea party member declaring he had been “taxed enough already,” the drama rivals any funding plea on the national stage. It appears that, for most of this argument, the facts and the concept of honesty are irrelevant to the discussion. The focus is to pull on the heart strings of Loudouner’s to accept the notion that we must all pay more in taxes, for the small cost of a daily Starbucks, and all “for the children.” While this drama makes great headlines, it makes for a poor model of governance as well.

    In my 27 plus years as a federal employee, I have spent hundreds of millions of your hard-earned tax dollars. While I cringe at using the feds as a model of budgeting sanity, in reality, most of the federal budget is passed without drama, and follows a five-year budget cycle. This five-year plan establishes spending levels, indexed for inflation, and is only moderately updated. While there are plus-ups due to unanticipated events, most of the funding is well-defined and stable. This process would bode well for use by the BOS and the Loudoun School Board.

    A five-year budget would account for student population growth and inflation. Last year, the student increase was just over 3 percent, and inflation, just over 1 percent. Thus, a reasonable expectation would have been 4 percent. For the 2015 year, school funding increased 8.5 percent, well over double what should be expected.

    With a five-year budget, we can now define the terms of the debate. Monies allocated above the budget, we can call “increased funding.” Monies allocated below the budget, we can call a “cut.” This is important, as those that define the terms of the debate generally control the narrative. Case in point, WMAL radio recently reported Loudoun’s struggle to “find” $37 million dollars in budget “cuts.” The implied narrative was there is now $37 million less than there was last year. The report failed to mention the $70 million increase, which is well over twice what should be expected. A more accurate narrative would have been how the School Board is prioritizing how to spend an additional $70 million, wisely.

    In reality, budgeting is simple.  Households and businesses do it every day. However, it does require two basic ingredients, facts and honesty. Both of which seem to be lacking in Loudoun’s School Board governance and in the center ring. 

    WARNER WORKMAN

    Loudoun County

    Guest Opinion: You pay taxes – Why doesn’t General Electric?

    You pay your fair share of taxes. Small businesses do, too. It’s the price we pay to educate our kids, protect our communities and have some security in retirement. Why shouldn’t some of America’s largest corporations pay their fair share, too?

    Corporations are making record profits. But 111 profitable Fortune 500 companies paid zero federal income taxes in one or more of the past five years, according to a recent report by Citizens for Tax Justice. What’s worse – 26 of them, including Boeing, General Electric and Verizon, paid nothing over the entire five-years. Astoundingly, they got tax refunds instead.

    General Electric, which in the past has been the focus of media attention because of its record of paying an extremely low income tax rate, provides a vivid example. GE earned a whopping $27.5 billion in profits between 2008 and 2012, but claimed $3 billion in tax refunds—a federal income tax rate of negative 11 percent.

    Put another way, GE paid less in federal income taxes than you paid over five years.

    There is talk in Washington about overhauling the tax code. Corporate lobbyists are decrying the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent. They want you to focus on what corporations are supposed to pay instead of what they really pay. That’s because many corporations pay a lot less – averaging little more than half the top rate – 19.4 percent for all 288 companies in the Citizens for Tax Justice report.

    CEOs inevitably claim that their companies pay every penny they owe and they are doing nothing illegal. That’s the problem – it’s possible (but not guaranteed) that what they’re doing is perfectly legal. That’s because over the years corporate lobbyists have drilled so many holes into our tax code that it is like Swiss cheese.

    Some of the loopholes defy logic – like the tax break for companies that give their CEOs lavish “performance based” bonuses. Others are outrageous – like a tax break for companies that shuttle their executives in corporate jets. And some are an insult to working Americans – like a special low tax rate for Wall Street hedge fund managers.

    But one of the most outrageous tax loopholes of all is the one that has helped GE be such a good tax dodger. It enables Wall Street banks and other corporations with large financial units – like GE – to make it appear that profits earned in the United States were generated in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands. It’s as if you laundered your paycheck through the Caribbean to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

    Lobbyists are twisting arms on Capitol Hill to try to save the “GE Loophole,” which expired last year. A recent report by Americans for Tax Fairness and Public Campaign shows that at least 292 lobbyists pressed members of Congress on this issue in the past three years. GE alone pays 48 lobbyists to lobby for the loophole. It cares so much about the loophole that its tax department chief once got down on his knees to pretend to beg Congressional staffers to save it.

    Last week, a U.S. Senate committee voted to renew the GE Loophole and a raft of other questionable tax breaks, including breaks for owners of thoroughbred racehorses and NASCAR racetracks. The Senate will vote on the tax package in May. If it passes, the entire $86 billion cost will be tacked onto the budget deficit. You will end up paying part of the bill.

    Why should you care about the GE Loophole or about some big corporations paying nothing in federal income taxes? It’s because when corporations refuse to pay their fair share, you end up paying higher taxes or getting less for what you pay. You get a worse transportation system, a poorer educational system, less reliable public safety, a weaker national defense, a less secure retirement and a bigger budget deficit.

    So don’t be fooled by the lobbyists and spinmeisters who argue that corporations should be paying less in taxes. Many are already paying far less than they should, and some are paying nothing at all. Let’s plug up those corporate tax loopholes, like the one that gives huge tax breaks to companies that ship jobs and profits offshore. It’s time they pay their fair share—just like the rest of us.

    Clemente is executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. 

    Frank Clemente

    Clemente is executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness 

    Delegate Greason’s email is dismaying
    Determined to save historic, rural schools
    Veterans, real estate taxes and Virginia
    Aldie School is heart of community
    Dr. Claude Moore’s legacy serves Loudoun every day
    COMMUNITY VOICE: “Fully Fund” has no real meaning
    COMMUNITY VOICE: Medicaid expansion closes coverage gap
    Supervisors should listen
    Coping with the growing challenge of autism
    Natural gas power plant poses problems for county
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