The County’s proposed ten year capital budget (CIP) allocates over half a billion dollars for the Crystal City and Columbia Pike trolleys. This represents more than half the transportation capital budget and 19 percent of the total capital budget of $2.7 billion. Yet according to the Underlying Assumptions section of the Debt Capacity Analysis (B-15), the debt ratios utilized to determine the County’s bond rating do “not include revenue bonds anticipated to be issued for transportation projects [including the trolleys] and supported by the commercial real estate tax or the Crystal City TIF.”
In effect the debt service on $137 million worth of bonds to be issued to finance the Crystal City and Pike trolleys is off budget. Why? Continue reading
I was happy to learn at the May 22 and June 8 School Board meetings that other Arlington residents are concerned about plans to build a 1,300 seat middle school at the site of the Wilson School in Rosslyn. I was particularly impressed with Arlington lawyer Kristin Woody’s rationale for recommending the M5 alternative instead. The M5 alternative described in Arlington Public Schools (APS) Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) proposal, would relocate the Reed School to Madison Community Center; relocate HB Woodlawn HS to the Reed School and renovate the HB Woodlawn building for use as a new Stratford MS.
The Superintendent’s Recommended Capital Improvement Program (CIP) indicates that within the next five years Arlington schools will have a deficit of 1,000 elementary school seats, 1,000 middle school seats, and about 500 high school seats.
To meet the demand for more seats the CIP proposes to:
- build a new 725 seat elementary school in South Arlington for $50 million;
- expand Abingdon School for $29 million;
- construct a new 1,300 seat middle school at the site of the current Wilson School for $117 million;
- construct a 1,300 seat new high school at the site of the Arlington Career Center for $149 million;
- expand Washington-Lee High school for $5 million;
I applaud Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) recent announcement that it plans to defer consideration of Lubber Run Park as the site for a new school. Construction of new schools on parkland should be permanently ruled out, since Arlington has lost too much green space already. However, the prospect of tearing down the existing historic Wilson School to make way for a 1,300 seat secondary school in an already congested Rosslyn neighborhood, strikes me as bizarre. Wilson School should be preserved and renovated as an elementary school, the way it was designed. Continue reading
There’s been a lot of contention among Arlington County residents who want to preserve key programs and those who are disgusted that the county’s tax and fee burden is larger than any other jurisdiction in the region, except possibly Falls Church. People want to know why with steadily rising assessments and tax hikes, core county programs are under served.
The elephant in the room is Arlington Public Schools (APS). APS’ 2015 operating budget is projected at $539.4 million. In 2015 the County funds transfer to APS will increase by $19.6 million to $432.2 or almost half the County’s operating budget. Yet that will not be enough to spare a $1.6 million adult high school diploma program at Arlington Mill Community Center. Continue reading
The Arlington Green Party recently endorsed the new year round homeless shelter next to the Woodbury Heights Condominium in the Courthouse section of Arlington. However, at a March 15 County Board meeting I pointed out that at $16.9 million the acquisition and construction cost of the Thomas Building facility that will house the shelter is $7 million more than a comparable shelter constructed in DC in 2012. In addition, the cost of operating the new facility is estimated to be $2.5 million annually. Continue reading
Dissatisfaction with the Arlington Ashlawn Elementary School expansion project resulted from approval of the Manchester Street entrance, which will pave over a bucolic hill in a sensitive watershed area to put in a parking lot and drop-off loop. Continue reading
County staff have described as “within budget estimates” the $6.6 million contract to be awarded for the construction of the new year-round homeless shelter. While that’s peanuts compared with some other County sponsored boondoggles like the Pike Trolley and the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, it might be more accurate to describe the outlay as excessive.
My comments below at the January 25, 2014 County Board meeting about the County’s unauthorized removal of trees on the Ashlawn ES site and plans to remove additional trees not authorized by its use permit drew a stern rebuke of the County Manager from no less than four County Board members. The Board is unhappy that it was not consulted about the plans and the fact that the Manager did not seek to modify the use permit it had authorized for the project last May. Continue reading
I want to pay tribute to Bob Atkins, prominent GOP civic activist, who died recently. Bob grabbed headlines when at a budget hearing last spring he commented on the impact of impending federal budget cuts, saying: “The goose that laid the golden egg has reached menopause.”
This hilarious mixed metaphor should give pause to those wondering about the cost of the Ashlawn Elementary School extension, which has ballooned from $12 million to $20 million in a year’s time. Continue reading