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The McCoart Kabuki

By Greg L | 17 April 2012 | Prince William County | 9 Comments

It’s budget time again for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, and if you like Kabuki, you’re bound to love budget time.  The same special interests (often members of public employee unions) get to stand up and beg the board to raise our taxes in order to fund some oh-so-important initiative, citizens stand up and tell the board that they don’t have additional money to fork over, and by and large the Board pretends it’s fiscally conservative and only raises our taxes by a little.  Because it’s for the children, you see.

It’s about time to rile up the electorate here, as it’s getting screwed.

The whole dance starts with the county staff preparing a budget proposal that is more of an infomercial pitch than a financial document.  Only aggregated expenditures are shown, the only detail provided is to justify increases over the base rate of tax inflation, and the only justifications for the current level of expenditures and the new ones are the results of a survey, of all things.  About the only use for the various surveys conducted at great taxpayer expense throughout the year is to justify spending.  It’s like the tax hikers hired a marketing firm instead of an accounting firm.  Actually, that pretty much describes the start of this dance.

Next up is the usual banter between public employee unions and the board where the unions warn us of such dire consequences if taxes aren’t raised.  Funny, the problem is school overcrowding, the cause of school overcrowding is largely due to illegal immigration, the solution has nothing to do with extracting ever greater shares of our rapidly diminishing wealth to accommodate foreign nationals wanting a free American education but to address the problem of illegal immigration.  Neither the school board nor the PWEA wants to have anything to do with actually solving the problem, so they just demand we continue to fund the problem.  Other times we get global warming-esque alarmism that if we don’t hire more police or fire department personnel the county will burn down or will be overrun with rapists.  Despite not meeting the staffing levels police and fire unions demand, the incidence of structure fires and the incidence of violent crime are both down sharply.  Go figure.

Then we get supervisors nibbling around the edges of the staff budget proposal to reduce the tax rate from the vastly tax inflationary advertised rate to something won’t quite cause so many seniors on fixed incomes to run away from the county because they can’t afford to live here.  It didn’t hurt quite so much, you’ve still got one arm left, and aren’t we just wonderful for making sure you didn’t lose both of them?  Taxes are up 109% in the last decade while population rose 42%.  Welcome to fiscal conservatism, Prince William County style.

The problem isn’t that we tax too little, it’s that we spend too much on things that don’t return value to the taxpayers.  To the extent we can figure out where the money is going in this laughably inadequate budget document, mountains of spending that is wasteful or ineffective isn’t all that hard to find.  Here’s a few examples:

If the budget proposals weren’t so bloated with survey-fueled marketing propaganda it would be a lot easier to pick out many more examples where taxpayers aren’t getting value for their dollars.  Big-budget departments like Information Technology and Public Safety don’t break out spending in any meaningful way making it impossible to determine what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and even why specific activities are being performed at all.  Hidden within one of those budgets not too long ago was one of the biggest corruption scandals in county history, one which cost county residents tens of millions of dollars.

I have to wonder if supervisors, who have to slog through the mountains of marketing material they get from county staff every year, even care what’s actually in these proposals.  In private industry, regulations under Sarbanes-Oxley would make decision makers personally liable for any failure to exercise due diligence on something like this, but in county government there’s an incentive to not ask too many questions at budget time.  If the county actually cut wasteful or ineffective spending there’s be less room for borrowing.  Bond issues for capital expenditures for things like road construction and libraries are capped at a percentage of the overall county budget, so if you spend less, you don’t have the borrowing capacity to widen Route 1 or enclose a library structure in plexiglass, and can’t go tell the voters you honored a campaign promise.

The only folks with a real interest in cutting government waste are the taxpayers, and one elected official who got the message loud and clear while knocking doors last election cycle.   Supervisor Peter Candland seems to really understand the problem here and is trying to make sure tax bills don’t rise again this year, but is getting pushback not only from staff, but from other Supervisors as well.  He could use your help on this.

If voters don’t complain loudly to their elected representatives to get this under control, in ten more years taxes will again double.  All it takes is for taxpayers to remain silent about spending and what it’s costing them.



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9 Comments

  1. freedom said on 17 Apr 2012 at 4:57 pm:
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    Excellent post, Greg…and until our elected Supervisors demand meaningful job descriptions for each Staff employee (to include salary grade, duties, number and level of persons supervised) as well as a detailed break-out of proposed expenditures, there will be no change. They simply lack and will continue to lack essential elements of information.

  2. Anonymous said on 17 Apr 2012 at 7:23 pm:
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    We don’t have employee unions in PWC! Is the Kool Aid getting to you greg? lol

  3. Bob said on 17 Apr 2012 at 8:17 pm:
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    Poor Petey….his grandstanding today was good drama, so was the Board’s slap down of his LACK of proposals….I dont disagree with his idea, but if you are going to come to the BOS at the last second, you better have some concrete ideas and cuts laid out. I think Nohe’s proposal is a good compromise…I just hope they do not throw in millions of dollars to the Wartime Museum…

  4. Anonymous said on 17 Apr 2012 at 8:46 pm:
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    I think health care costs are the number one reason that the budget seems out of yack. Come on Greg, we are lead by fiscal conservatives in this county. lol. PWC is a RINO county. Lets keep giveing more social services so we can get more of these type of people moving here!

  5. Citizen-Veteran said on 17 Apr 2012 at 11:12 pm:
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    This is an outstanding citizen’s critique of a county budget that demands additional taxpayers’ scrutiny. Our Board of Supervisors (BOS) need to have perfect clarity into all county government department budgets - and that seems to be an open question.

    The county’s taxpayers, like the rest of America, are facing a huge jump in federal taxes under the Obama Administration. We now see the BOS considering a five-year budget calling for additional tax increases.

    HELLO??? The prudent approach would be to budget for significant cuts over the next five years as federal and state money is reduced due to inevitable federal spending cuts. The sane electorate does not want the Democrat path to a government in default and a collapsed economy.

    If the economy recovers, then revisit the five-year budget. Otherwise, plan for cuts, consolidations, new efficiencies, and yes, reduction in services and programs. If the 2010 election demonstrated anything, it proved the taxpayers are fed up with expanding government spending. Our county government should understand that before the next county elections.

    If a county program is not critical, it needs to be on the cut list. We need to learn to live within our means. . . now.

  6. Anonymous said on 18 Apr 2012 at 12:55 pm:
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    @ Citizen-Veteran: Didn’t we just have elections? We just elected these guys so I think people are onboard with what they are doing……

  7. BristowBristling said on 18 Apr 2012 at 2:26 pm:
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    Until the School Board remedies its over spending and the teachers realize that their fight is with the School Board and the State, we will continue along this path. The School Board gets just shy of 57% of the County budget. The County has met its obligation and so has the County taxpayer. Perhaps we should go back to the 51% we used to give them. Clearly, the more you give, the more they spend.

    I disagree with the comments regarding Police and Fire. Chief Deane has always been conservative in what he asks for. The career Fire Department struggles to staff stations when the volunteers are unable to fill slots that they committed to filling. Eventually, with the rise in population, Police will need the new station and Fire will need to go 24 / 7 Countywide.

  8. GainesvilleFirst said on 18 Apr 2012 at 8:43 pm:
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    Okay Bob, you actually had to listen to what Supervisor Candland (whom you disrespectfully refer to as “Petey”) said during the meeting.

    Sure, he got ambushed by pseudo Republican conservatives Nohe, May, Caddigan and Stewart (and it was clearly orchestrated to let them get to the higher tax rate) with their demands that Supervisor Candland provide a list of the programs that he would cut from their $1.215, $1.204, and then to $1.209 tax rates and spending money.

    Supervisor Candland’s position, as he plainly stated it, was that he wanted to hold the line on taxes and limit spending to the FY2012 levels.

    The real issue is what are the rest of the big spenders ADDING to the FY2013 budget to hammer taxpayers yet again.

    Spending went up nearly 6% between FY2011 and FY2012, and now these big spenders are adding another 3.2% to the spending spree this year.

    How many families in Prince William County have received a 9.2% pay increase in the last two years.

    Here’s the answer, Bob, darn few (if any).

    The fact is our personal income has plummeted.

    Food and gas prices are skyrocketing.

    And the Robin Hood’s on the Board of County Supervisors want to rob the taxpayers to reward their friends in the County and all the non-profits that are lining up at the door rattling their tin cups.

    Shame on Supervisor Caddigan when the huge spending increase she voted to approve could not even allow the impact to settle in and she was asking for the Rainbow Riding Center to get $178,000 MORE taxpayer dollars to fund an air conditioned viewing booth for parents to watch their children ride around — and to pave the parking lot for them to park in.

    The “them”, by the way, would be the gentleman who stood up in Citizen’s Time two weeks ago and thanked the PWC Board of County Supervisors for supporting the Rainbow Riding Center.

    His appreciation was sincere, and he spoke eloquently how his son had benefitted from the program.

    Only one problem — he lives in Fairfax County.

    Sorry, and I know he will likely call it heartless, but get Fairfax County taxpayers to shell out for these services and stay in Fairfax County to receive them.

    Maureen, your shameless pandering and unlimited willingness to spend my money is just too much for me — and I think it will be too much for most taxpayers.

    And while I’m at it, shame on Mary Nohe for his narcissistic blathering about how hard he worked at the computer. He got the dirty work done by Melissa Peacor and her band of minions that we pay for. It was the big con on taxpayers and it simply will not sell in the theaters.

    Thank goodness for Pete Candland following the the footsteps of John Stirrup.

    Let’s get the rest of this group of shelters under control, and out of office in the next go-around.

  9. GainesvilleFirst said on 18 Apr 2012 at 9:20 pm:
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    Sorry, I meant “scheisters” — the auto spell correct got me.

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