2018 Spotsylvania Budget Public Hearing Observations
It is worth noting that Spotsylvania Budget Public Hearing attendance has declined significantly over the last three years, to include 2018 where by the Free Lance-Star count, only 34 citizens provided input. In 2016, close to 100 spoke and about half that in 2017. It is hard to judge exactly why the turnout this past Thursday was so low, especially with an advertised tax rate of 85 cents, or roughly 3 cents above the equalized rate. It does pose a philosophical question that will be answered by the Board in the coming weeks, did low turnout mean that Spotsy citizens accept the higher rate or that low participation shows that citizens did not care enough to fight for their causes? This question likely will be answered along ideological lines and preconceived ideas about the purpose of government and less on any budget proposals itself. However, one cannot help but think citizens lack of faith in local officials to heed their requests is a contributing factor.
What we do know is that of the 34 citizens, only 5 spoke in favor of keeping the tax rate at the equalized rate. Of those 5 individuals at least 3 were current or former members or affiliates of the Fredericksburg Virginia Patriots. While the Free Lance-Star highlights a sizable portion of those in favor of the 85 cents tax rate were teachers, to be clear the majority against it belonged to a local political organization that tends to advocate for lower taxes at the expense of supporting county services.
At the March 29th Budget Public hearing, an individual speaking on behalf of the Fredericksburg Virginia Patriots made a statement that the School Board gave no explanation to date on why surplus funds were not used for pay raises. This inherently gives residents the impression that the School Board does not prioritize pay raises in their budget expenditures. However, at the November 28, 2017 joint Board of Supervisors/School Board Work Session - while not dealing specifically on the issue of pay raises – School Board Chief Financial Officer explains why carryover funds are used for one-time expenditures and not employee salaries or other ongoing expenditures.
Overall, the 2018 Public Hearing was mostly cordial and civil. We need honest dialogue from both sides of this debate. While we can interpret data differently and draw opposite conclusions, we must avoid making incorrect or false statements that only muddy the waters to an honest discussion on issues of immense importance. If we are to have honest debate, we need to be informed and use extreme caution before making allegations or innuendoes about why a decision may have been made.
Click here to review Scott Shenk's Free Lane-Star article for additional details.