According to an article at Prince William Times, a proffer agreement with developer D. H. Horton was made to offset the additional educational expenses the county would incur as a result of a townhouse development that would increase enrollment in area schools. Instead of this money being provided to the Prince William County Schools and being used to actually offset the costs of increased student enrollment, the town retained control over the funds and spent them buying tablet computers for Battlefield High School.
If the intent here was to help cover the costs taxpayers would bear for additional tax-revenue negative high density residential development, $20,000 in iPads and other tech toys certainly isn’t going to fulfill that. Are proffer dollars just a pot of free money to waste on shiny toys, or are they actually supposed to do anything at all to help lessen burdens on taxpayers for rezonings that will put a hole in the county budget? Apparently these are just slush funds, and slush funds where local elected officials get to pose for pictures in front of happy students that have a neat new platform to use for playing Angry Birds instead of delivering positive educational outcomes.
If that’s not bad enough, the unit costs for these iPads and other Apple gear seem to be the retail prices you and I would pay for these devices, instead of the discounted prices Apple is known for charging to educational institutions. $399 for an iPad 2, what the article cites as the cost for those units, is precisely the retail cost for these devices at the Apple Store. Apple is legendary for dumping their products at steep discounts into the educational environment so students get hooked on their technology, but in Prince William County we’re paying consumer retail prices for these. That’s not even considering that buying $100k of Apple stuff should qualify for a volume discount as well. But we’re paying the one-off retail price here. Utterly brilliant.
A pretty significant chunk of proffer money was spent here on a rather dubious project to establish an “Apple iPad Learning Lab” at Battlefield without any apparent oversight. It really makes me wonder what is going on with other proffer funds. Is it just the Town of Haymarket that can manage to screw up like this, or is the whole county’s use of proffer funds more messed up than a football bat?
UPDATE: Previous allocations of this proffer money were reported by the Gainesville Times and outline a variety of projects this money was used for, including bleachers, playground equipment and computer upgrades. The Town of Haymarket apparently controlled the proffer funds and Parent-Teacher Organizations at the schools that Haymarket residents attend requested funds for specific projects, some of which seem consistent with the original intent of these proffer funds, and some which obviously were not. PWC Schools expressed concerns about the spending not having adequate oversight, and apparently their concerns were validated.
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