Panel Discussion on School Funding
One potential revenue stream discussed was whether to implement a meals tax. Following the panel, members of the Committee approved a resolution in favor of the meals tax and urging the Board of Supervisors to put the referendum on the November ballot.
“I think what we’re seeing here in Fairfax County is something that’s playing out in most of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but in terms of a state standard, Fairfax County has unique challenges with respect to how we are set up. I think the most important one is that we have a rural tax structure and we have a county that has city responsibilities…” (Del. David Bulova, member of the House Education Committee)
“I think there’s a stigma, in fact I know there’s a stigma in Virginia, that if you live north of Fredericksburg you’re wealthy… and a lot of people aren’t…. the fourth largest school district in the Commonwealth of Virginia is just the population [of students] on free and reduced lunch in Fairfax County.” (Jeff McKay, chair of the budget committee, Board of Supervisors)
“From the school size I think it’s important to note that revenues have mostly increased over the last decade or two or so, even though we’ve been having soft times economically so it has been difficult. But the increases in the revenues have not kept pace with the growing needs, growing enrollment, and growing costs we’ve grown by 23,000 students in the last 10 years, that’s significant growth. The percent of students living in poverty has increased to almost 30%.” (Pat Hynes, Chair, Fairfax County School Board)
“What a meals tax would do is to help release the pressure on the real estate tax, the car tax. Those two taxes make up almost 85% of the revenue we use to provide services, as you heard earlier, we don’t have the flexibility to increase other sources of revenue that exist within our budget. Every year the BPOL tax is threatened of being taken away entirely, every year we hear about how they think the car tax should be phased out. Having the additional revenue source is something that would help, again, to smooth over the revenue sources that we have.” (Sharon Bulova, Chair, Board of Supervisors)