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Haymarket Flushes Proffer Dollars Down the Toilet

By Greg L | 5 March 2013 | Prince William County | 4 Comments

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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  1. Commoner said on 6 Mar 2013 at 11:44 am:
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    Greg, you have the facts wrong… (granted, Dan Roem doesn’t always do a good job reporting on Haymarket) The $101k was split between 5 local school PTO’s. So Battlefield only got about $20k. I believe it was the Town Council’s intention to have the money effect our local schools, not to be lumped into the general fund, (Or to keep buying lunches at the Taz Mahal.)

  2. Greg L said on 6 Mar 2013 at 12:11 pm:
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    Are you saying that public proffer dollars were given to, or put under the control of Parent-Teacher Organizations? That opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, since it would seem that legislative action by the Board of Supervisors would be required to appropriate that money.

  3. Bob Weir said on 6 Mar 2013 at 1:54 pm:
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    Greg, youre operating with an incomplete set of facts. 8 years ago the town attorney and I along wit the applicants attorney developed those proffers due to concerns with a previous school board. The proffer funds were only given to the PTOs after they submitted a proposal that met the CIP requirements for such funds. The Town Council reviewed the proposals for compliance and distributed the funds. The PTOs will have to document the expenditures as part of the agreement. You may disagree with the nature of the purchases but they have been properly vetted and come as a result of needs not addressed by the schools budget or site based management of each school.

  4. charles said on 8 Mar 2013 at 10:14 pm:
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    But the key point here is that we do proffers because supposedly development drives up the costs of building schools — and none of the proffer money was spent to deal with this supposed overcrowding problem.

    It was just a way to collect blackmail payout from someone who wanted to do development.

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