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    Editorial: Cut education, borrow for Metro? What are supervisors thinking?

    You can only shake your head and wonder what the chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is thinking.

    Last week, Scott York said the county’s supervisors won’t fully fund the the 2015 budget for county schools. The school board will have to make cuts of about $40 million to close a tax-revenue gap, as well as compensate for a shortfall in expected state funding.

    A few days later, he endorsed borrowing $200 million - about 10 percent of the the county budget - to help pay for the extension of the Silver Line to Loudoun County.

    “This is great news for our taxpayers and commuters,” he said.

    Really?

    Here is what Mr. York is actually saying: Taking on debt to build a problem-plagued rail system whose economic benefits are purely speculative is a better investment than the current imperative to address growth and 21st century education in our schools.

    Let's be clear. We're not backing off our support to extend the Silver Line to Loudoun County. And we understand that the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA) offers the loan at a low-interest rate. We simply question the fuzzy thinking that justifies the out-of-control costs of financing the Silver Line over investing in our schools.

    Make no mistake: taxpayers are going to pay. It's hard to construe that as great news.

    We thought no-tax Republicans such as Mr. York and the other eight supervisors oppose increasing debt, borrowing and growing government. But the $6.8 billion cost of extending the Silver Line to two stops in Loudoun County is going to escalate everything. The supervisors would be taking on debt, increasing the cost of services and financing new bodies that grow government. How do they intend to square that equation with the lower-taxes, curb-government promises they made to those who elected them?

    Supervisors may be able to rationalize additional costs to taxpayers in terms other than a tax increase, but let’s get real: The Silver Line will only get more expensive to build, more complicated to operate and more uncertain in its impact. Despite what Mr. York says, the burden of financing escalating costs will fall on taxpayers. To suggest otherwise is so much political spinning.

    Does anyone actually believe what the politicians and developers are telling us? That tolls on the Dulles Toll Road, Dulles Greenway and Metro won’t rise. That roads won’t become more congested (who will pay for the improvements?). That green spaces won’t be paved over with concrete? That Metro can open and run safely on time. That new sources of revenue will pay for schools.

    How’s that worked so far?

    Here’s the troubling part: Mr. York and fellow supervisors are suggesting that commuters, growth and economic development are more important than students and schools in this county. In that, supervisors are placing a bet instead of making an investment. They ought to get out of the county building and into the real world. Take a field trip.

    The first stop would be the new Silver Line stations in Tysons Corner. Let’s hope they appreciate a colossal mess. A tangle of concrete, steel, traffic congestion and construction has appeared on what is becoming the state’s ugliest and most annoying road, Route 7, the same road with the same problems that leads into Loudoun.

    Next stop: Reston Station, where they’ll learn about the continuing problems with Metro’s safety controls, the same problem that contributed to the fatal crash on the Red Line in 2009. The opening of the Reston Station has now been pushed back nearly a year to late summer because of the safety issue. Walk the neighborhood and ask the residents about confidence in the Silver Line, costly fares and the impact on neighborhoods and community.

    Then it's back to Loudoun for stops at Eagle Ridge and Belmont Ridge middle schools. There, we hope supervisors appreciate the asset of students embracing the skills of a digital age in teacher-enriched environments for learning. Supervisors will soon have to consider the development of a proposed academy for technology, math and science. The academy would open in 2018, coincidentally the same year the Silver Line would be completed. Sooner or later, our elected leaders will have to choose.

    Here’s another reason for supervisors to reconsider their priorities. Let’s say the Silver Line is a huge success when and if it opens in 2018. Tens of thousands of people come to Loudoun, continuing the population surge of the second fastest-growing county in the nation. Loudoun County will have to build even more new schools to provide what should be our most-valued resource with the kind of education it takes to succeed in a county that’s among the most competitive in the world. That’s a scenario that takes us back to now.

    As Loudoun changes before our eyes, it’s time for supervisors to open theirs. Extending a rail line from another county may bring silver, but the education of children in this county pays gold.

    
Growth brings difficult decisions. It’s time to get priorities straight and represent the price of progress with vision, intelligence and honesty. Here's what we ask of the county's leaders: Give us a plan, not platitudes.

    Comments

    Once again the media is MIA. Last time I checked, the LCPS budget was an increase from last year. Curious why this paper doesn’t ask why Loudoun builds smaller HS? The school board loves to compare Loudoun to Fairfax, however their HS are 2400 students while Loudoun’s are around 1800. Just think of all the savings if 1 less HS was built in Ashburn? And last time I checked, Loudoun students out perform DC students, yet DC spends more per kid…. Fairfax must have all the good news reporters too…


    “The Loudoun bus is already a superior option for the “big” destinations downtown, that doesn’t pack people on like sardines, but apparently too many Loudouners are too good for a bus or something and can only consider a train”

    Does the bus operate on weekends and holidays? not everyone has weekends off or holidays.


    Holy moly rpierce finally got one thing correct, quit spending money on the Redskins.


    Do metro, fully fund the school, implement full-day K, and stop sending $2,000,000 more to the Washington Football Team.


    The two issues are totally unrelated. We took loans to build new schools on several recent election. We also funded parks and emergency service expansions this way.

    Metro is coming and it has nothing to do with the year to year shortfall on education spending in the budget.

    We are getting a sweet deal on the metro, and the loan to fund it. Federal loans are cheap for a municipality. We are only funding 10% of the metro phase 2 project even when we get 2 of the 6 new stations, or 1/3rd of the stations at only 10% of the project cost.

    Lets look to the future, we have enough building approved to double our counties size in 10 years. Building and the number of people moving to Loudoun has not slowed down in the past 5 years its up in the last few. Our traffic problems will get worse.

    I personally would use the metro if it was done today. I am half a mile from were 772 is going in at the end and across the street from Wiehle for work. I could walk both ends or bike my home end and walk the business end. I bet the trip is cheaper and just as fast as driving in the near stopped morning traffic on the toll road (and greenway). 


    $64k question - “What are supervisors thinking?” Thinking at all?


    Who ever wrote this must be on the school board.  what gets me is how we keep hearing the school is having the budget cut.  When actuality the budget is more than 100 million more than last year. So these 40 million in cuts you speak of also mean 60 million more than last year.  Regardless of the exact numbers the schools have been getting more every year as long as i can remember.  I have been a loudoun resident for 35 years and have not once seen a stat that our schools or kids are lagging behind.
    For everyone who is new to loudoun, these scare tactics from the school board have been going on for years.  Its like everyone has blinders on, or maybe they got their educations elsewhere.  80 percent of loudouns budget is for the schools!...how much more do you think they should get??? 90…95…There isnt much left.  What about every other agency, service, employee, and project? I would think that the police and fire departments would like more money.  Money for transportation, parks, recreation. Yes teachers should be paid more, why isnt that the first priority in hatricks budget?
    The money for the silver line has nothing to do with short changing our students or teachers.  It has to do with spending our tax dollars on things other than the schools budget, and apparently the editor does not like that.  I live near one of the planned metro stops and i plan on using it.  Stop with all this sky falling nonsense.


    Enuf is spot on and I don’t know what fantasy world Bishop is living in. 

    Unless you work in Herndon or Reston, the Silver Line is going to be worthless as a “time saver”.  Anyone working in Arlington or in the District is going to be on that train for along time while it stops every 5 minutes along the way.  Never mind if you need to switch off the Orange Line to get where you need to be.  And to echo Enuf again, those existing trains are jam packed during rush.  I don’t know where all these Silver Line riders are going to go.

    I work off the Yellow/Blue and I’ve estimated (based off current times and cost from the end of the Orange to my destination) that it would take me longer and cost me more to take Metro.  So I guess Metro is great if you already don’t have that bad of a commute, and in that case, I doubt you are going to give up the car so you can walk 20 minutes from the Metro station to your sprawled out office in Tysons.

    The Loudoun bus is already a superior option for the “big” destinations downtown, that doesn’t pack people on like sardines, but apparently too many Loudouners are too good for a bus or something and can only consider a train.


    Newsflash…Metro is barely coming to Loudoun so it’s not really going to give you a whole lot more time with your kids.  Unless they run an express train to DC, get ready to sit while it makes all its stops along the way—and good luck cramming on the trains on the way home.  Anyway…kudos to the paper for standing up for education.  Does York have any stashed away for the extra schools we’ll need with the “booming” Metro expansion (and I don’t mean just to build the schools…but to staff them and maintain them for years and years to come)?  I’d wager he hasn’t or doesn’t care about that part of picture.


    Um, Mr. or Ms. Editor, have you ever sat in traffic trying to get in or out of Ashburn?  Children need their parents to be able to spend some time with them too.  It’s sad that you are pitting commuting needs against the educational system. 

    We need metro in the suburbs, and we need a strong school system.  I am no fan of the belligerent Mr. York, so this is not a defense of him.  But you need to get out there and see what it’s like to deal with the failing transportation system, mostly all car-centric, and the misery it is causing for families. 

    Perhaps you’d then change the tone of editorials like this.  It’s disappointing to see this coming from the new management of the Loudoun Times Mirror.


    The silver line should have ended at Dulles Airport. Instead the 2 stops in Asbhurn will cost L.C. taxpayers money upront and money in the upcoming years (repairs, maintenance, and operating costs). We could have reaped the benifts for “free” if it had ended at Dulles Airport by just driving to that station. My guess is the distance between the Dulles Airport stop to the last Ashburn stop could not be more than 4 miles. Big deal…what is that 10 minutes of your precious time extra.

    I fully understand L.C. would miss out on some of the economic development that Silver Line would bring with above scenario, but we could have run some rapid transit busses at a fraction of the cost.


    OpenMic,
    The funding doesnt even have to due with performance, it has to do with the keeping the schools from spilling over because of all the new students.  They cant build schools fast enough.Do you want good teachers?  Do you want new books?  Do you want kids to be learning in a 21st century environment?

    If you think a kid that may be falling behind gets as much personal help from a teacher when there is 40 kids in a class as compared to 20- you are wrong. 

    Good for someone in the county to actually stand for schools and not urban sprawl.


    False equivalency: cuts in cost of education results in lesser educated children.  Spending on education is not a good indicator of performance. See DC spending on schools and how well their children perform. Moreover, charter schools do very well on less money. A kid can be just as learned in a $65 million school as he would be in our new $100 million schools.  Did someone get bumped on the head during the move this week as this op-Ed is truly juvenile.

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