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Spotsylvania teachers seeking budget increase

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Teachers and parents turned out for Spotsylvania County’s annual budget public hearing Thursday to encourage the Board of Supervisors to invest more money in schools.
More than half of the 58 speakers at the hearing at Courtland High School expressed support for the school division’s proposed spending plan, which requests $1.9 million more in local taxpayer dollars for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The county administrator’s proposed budget doesn’t provide schools with a local funding increase for the fourth straight year.
Spotsylvania Education Association President Peter Pfotenhauer and others also asked the supervisors to adopt the advertised real estate tax rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value. 
Claims that an 87-cent rate would force residents into foreclosure are “propaganda-driven political posturing,” Pfotenhauer said.
On average, residential property owners would pay $54 more in real estate taxes under that rate because home values increased in this year’s reassessment. The current rate is 88 cents, or a penny more than what was advertised.
Meanwhile, several speakers encouraged supervisors to hold the line on taxes. 
Some advocated an equalized, 86-cent tax rate, which would essentially maintain the county’s revenue stream from the real estate tax. Anything higher than that would be a tax increase, they said.
Michael Wood, a paraeducator at Spotsylvania Middle School, took a different position than the other schools employees who spoke at the hearing. “As an educator, I cannot support raising taxes to put money in my pocket, taking food off the plates of the children I serve,” said Wood, who is on the county’s Citizen Budget Review Committee.
The School Board’s proposed budget includes step increases on the salary scale for the first time since 2008. 
Speaker Fran Taylor called raising taxes “the easy way.”  “Anyone can do that,” she said. “It is work to make the hard decisions to meet our county’s needs without raising taxes.” 
Owners of a home worth $228,000—the average value in Spotsylvania—would pay $1,983 in real estate taxes under the 87-cent advertised real estate tax rate. That’s about $23 more than they would pay under an 86-cent rate.  
Other speakers took shots at the anti-tax sentiment on the Board of Supervisors. Sue Sargeant, a speech therapist for Spotsylvania schools, said she was tired of what she called the board’s “ideological template.”
 “Some of you are intoxicated by voting for a tax cut during your term,” she said. “No more ideological template. It’s not the Spotsy way.”
Speaker Ronald Fiske said it’s naïve to think that schools will thrive without proper funding. “Instead of obsessing over not increasing taxes, try obsessing over providing better futures for our children,” he told supervisors.
School Board members have said that without more revenue, they will have to cut unspecified programs or positions.
 
There’s a good chance supervisors will adopt an 86-cent rate despite Thursday’s feedback. Supervisors Chairman David Ross told the audience after the hearing that “we all support public education, and I think we can do that with an 86-cent tax rate.”
Each penny on the tax rate equals about $1.2 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Supervisors are scheduled to approve the county’s spending plan on April 15. 
 
Jeff Branscome:  540/374-5402 

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2014/04/04/teachers-seeking-budget-increase/