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February 16, 2019 · OPINION

Policies and budget reflect our community priorities

By Matt Daly

A recent letter to the editor stated that the school funding problems began with the Fauquier High School renovation. That is not true. It started many years ago when the Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan was developed.

The comprehensive plan is divided into a Vision and 4 Guiding Principles and Policies. Inherent in the design of the comprehensive plan is a hierarchy of values, which dictates how the plan is executed. The problem — or success depending upon who you ask — is that the values expressed within this hierarchy are in constant conflict, with the result that some parts of the plan have succeeded, while others have faltered. Therefore, the actualization of the plan over time has been lopsided, which has created mixed results.

For example, Guiding Principle A: The County’s natural and cultural heritage are intrinsic to the County’s character.

Policies: Use conservation easements, Purchase of Development Rights and the Land Use Taxation program to protect these resources.

This policy has been greatly successful as recent statistics report that over one-quarter of all the land in Fauquier County is now in easement. The expectation is that this percentage will continue to grow.

Or, Guiding Principle D: Effective public facilities and infrastructure are important components of a thriving community.

Policies: Seek excellent educational and recreational opportunities.

Based upon historical fact and voluminous public discourse through many budget sessions, this policy is less successful and perhaps in danger.

Quite a few years ago, when Jonathan Lewis was superintendent of the Fauquier County Public Schools, I wrote to The Fauquier Times in response to an editorial that was critical of Dr. Lewis’ request for an increase in the school budget. At that time, the school system was facing similar budget pressure and trying to recover approximately $8.1 million that had been pulled from the school budget, in part because of the recession that started in in 2008.

Now, in his recent letter to the editor, Superintendent David Jeck stated: “We are still below fiscal 2009 state funding levels.” He made an appeal to the state to do more to support the school systems throughout the state.

Apparently, we never recovered.

As the budget discussions continue, remember that the way we spend money is a reflection of our values, not just as individuals, but as communities. It’s a philosophical question. Remember, education is an investment, not a liability.

As well, it does no good to nitpick our public servants or tell them to go somewhere else if they don’t like it. This is destructive rhetoric and a race to the bottom. Every community needs excellent teachers and schools.

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Cammie Rodgers · February 16, 2019 at 4:58 pm
Agreed, we also need safe roads, and the comprehensive plan once contained creating a parkway on Timber Fence, which was deleted by the powers that be due to pressure from the people who live in Old Gold/Silver Cup. They didn't ask the rest of the community how they felt about it but bowed to a few in spite of the needs of many. Look at Broadview and the mess that could have been averted if only the BOS had stuck with the comprehensive plan.
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