PRESS RELEASE: The Cost of a More Car Diet

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I want to clarify my position on new school construction in the County.

At the July, 2018 School Board meeting I criticized the design of the $55 million Reed School, because it requires demolishing the existing $20 million school constructed in 2009. It will also force 9 and 10 year olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day.

When ARLnow published some of my remarks, readers accused me of flip flopping, since I had advocated “Build Up Not Out to Preserve Green Space” as a School Board candidate in 2014.

True. Westover residents were told that the Reed School had to be built up rather than out to preserve green space. But inspection of the design reveals the real reason for building up–namely to expand parking space on an existing lot. While this scheme furthers APS’ commitment to a “more car diet”, it will impose a physical hardship on the students and drive up costs.

The same focus on parking governed the design of Alice Fleet Elementary School off Route 50 and Glebe Road in South Arlington. There a 4 story structure is under construction on an existing parking lot with a two story underground parking garage that has driven up the project cost to an eye popping $59 million. That’s a cost per pupil of $78,457 as compared with the new Patrick Henry Elementary in Alexandria with a cost per pupil of $48,848.

Virtually every recent school construction project in the county has resulted in expanded run off inducing surface parking and massive loss of tree canopy. According to longtime civic activist Suzanne Sundburg:

“Likewise most APS school construction projects result in mature tree loss: at least 94 at Ashlawn Elementary School, almost 80 at McKinley Elementary School, more than 160 at Stratford Middle School, etc.”

APS will tell you that additional costs and degraded surroundings are a necessary sacrifice to provide ample parking for teachers and staff. I disagree.

Parking and drop off facilities could be scaled back if:

  • more teachers took transit, and
  • more kids were bused instead of driven to school.

This would also reduce congestion around schools.

These options aren’t feasible now, because the County is not providing the incentives. If the County had a policy in place like Fairfax County to provide workforce housing to Arlington teachers, and APS changed its school bus policy to pick up kids within a half mile of the school, more people would leave their cars at home.

Other incentives include:

  • replacing school bus routes with ART service, and
  • subsidizing transit use by teachers and staff.

If you like these ideas or are concerned about the steady erosion of green space throughout the county and loss of tree canopy on school campuses–then support my run for Arlington School Board.

I’m a 14-year Westover resident and civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow. I also serve on the Arlington Transportation Commission.

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Promote a school construction program that increases classroom capacity on time and on budget
  • Reduce the need for trailers with an accelerated building program that brings the cost of new classroom capacity in line with the rest of the Commonwealth
  • Cut the fat out of the School Board’s top heavy administration and use the savings to fund needed services
  • Close the achievement gap
  • Mainstream special education programs
  • Implement more efficient school transit alternatives
  • Install renewable energy in all public schools
  • Provide a voice–minus the doublespeak–on Arlington School Board for all taxpayers

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy
  • volunteer to help
  • Donate to my campaign

If you’re interested in helping out, just shoot me an email or call or text. If you want to find out more about my campaign, visit my website.

Together we can make Arlington Public Schools provide all students with an honest education.

Arlington School Board’s Priorities in Question

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on April 19, 2018.

Earlier this year Superintendent Patrick Murphy was confronted with a tough directive from the County Manager. Cut costs in the face of declining County revenue despite burgeoning enrollment. In response the Superintendent proposed a combination of spending cuts and draw downs from reserve accounts. The spending cuts will be achieved through reductions in staff and employee benefits and increasing class size to eliminate 57 teaching positions.

At its April 5 meeting, the School Board resolved to restore some of the cuts primarily through reductions in IT spending and staffing reductions at Arlington Tech. Continue reading

Arlington School Board’s Brass Not Included In Budget Cuts

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on April 5, 2018.

Consistent with the County Manager’s direction to cut costs, the Superintendent has proposed a balanced budget for FY19. He achieves this through a combination of spending cuts and draw downs from reserve accounts. The spending cuts will be achieved through reduction in employee benefits and increasing class size to eliminate 57 teaching positions.

While I applaud the Superintendent’s general direction, I am concerned about the equity of the proposed cuts. Continue reading

Arlington Housing Investment Fund Trumps Other Vital Programs

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on April 3,2018.

The County Manager’s proposed budget calls for closing a $20.5 million gap with $9.3 million in expenditure reductions, $6.6 million in increased taxes and fees, and $3.9 million in savings.

While I applaud the move to streamline operations, this budget lays an ax to a whole slew of County programs, some of which are critical to County operations. Continue reading

School Board Squirreling Away Unspent Funds

Remarks at Arlington County School Board Meeting on January 18, 2018.

Welcome members of the School Board, the Superintendent and APS Staff. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. The Superintendent’s FY17 Closeout Presentation indicates the availability of $18.1 million to spend, consisting of budget savings and increased tax revenue from the County. Of these funds, the Superintendent proposes to allocate the majority–$11.8 million–to reserve accounts, including:

  • $6 million to the Compensation Reserve,
  • $3.8 million to the Capital Reserve, and
  • $2 million to the Debt Service Reserve.

These funds will be added to existing reserve accounts, which–as indicated by the sum of reserve items listed in Resolution 4 before you tonight–total $83.7 million. They will thus bring APS reserve accounts to $95.5 million or 15.5 percent of the adopted FY18 budget of $613.6 million. This is excessive.
Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: County Won’t Give Back Surplus Generated By Tax Rate Increase

Are you concerned about your steadily rising real estate taxes or rent? If so, you should know why the cost of living in Arlington County is so high.

It begins every year with the County Manager’s allocation of your surplus tax dollars for pet projects.

This year actual revenue received for the fiscal year ending June, 2017 exceeded a third quarter estimate published in April, 2017 by almost $18 million. Of that $5.5 million was due to a 1.5 cent real estate tax rate increase that County Board adopted in April, 2017.

Because the tax rate is set in April, County Board relies on its third quarter estimates in April to gauge how much additional revenue it will need in the next fiscal year. County Board knew in April, 2017 that a 1.5 cent tax rate increase was unnecessary, because its April revenue estimate exceeded the adopted FY17 budget by $7.5 million.

The surplus funds were available then to meet its anticipated FY19 shortfall. With the tax increase and other income and savings, the surplus ballooned to $25 million over the adopted budget by the end of the fourth quarter, June, 2017.

Instead of doing the honest thing and returning some of the surplus to the taxpayers, the County Manager wants to spend it on a list of pet projects that have not been vetted through the normal budget process. The projects earmarked for the surplus include:

  • $2 million for the Detention Center, even though half the money won’t be needed until FY19
  • $1.75 million for retroactive employee compensation, i.e. money that was not approved in the FY17 budget
  • $1.25 million for a County Manager contingent, even though the County maintains reserves in excess of $71 million
  • $.9 million for a study to purchase two properties that have already been studied to death by the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC)
  • An additional $5.2 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) on top of its very generous budget of $15 million.

In addition the County Manager proposes to give $4.5 million of "new" money to the schools. According to Mark Kelly commenting in ARLnow, this is particularly troublesome:

And it’s not just the County budget that has a slush fund. The schools did not spend $13.6 million of their budget either, but they are still being given $4.5 million of the surplus revenue as well as an additional $6 million appropriations. Added together, school officials have $24.2 million more to spend outside of their annual budget process. No funding gap here either.


If you’re sick and tired of the County’s irresponsible spending, then elect another Independent to the Board. As a fiscal hawk, you can be sure that I will join John Vihstadt in urging the County to revamp the way it allocates surplus funds. I will also lobby for no more tax rate increases.


As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by donating to my campaign, or volunteering to help me on Election Day.

Together we can make the "Arlington Way" more than an empty phrase.

PRESS RELEASE: Tell Them the Independent Candidate for County Board Sent You

October 14, 2017.

A few weeks ago Arlington County initiated the FY 2019 budget process in a press release announcing a series of budget roundtables open to those who register online.

You can be sure that one item not up for discussion at the roundtables are “close-out” funds–unspent money from the current fiscal year that the County routinely spends at the end of the calendar year, instead of allocating it in the next fiscal year’s budget.

Earmarking surplus funds this way bypasses the regular budget process, enabling the County to fund pet projects without the usual level of public scrutiny.

On November 9, 2016 Independent County Board member John Vihstadt offered several amendments to the close-out resolution to defer reallocation of most discretionary close-out funds until 2017. Vihstadt’s rationale was that except for clearly identified emergency needs, the current year’s budget surplus should be allocated in next year’s budget.

Unfortunately for the taxpayers, Vihstadt’s prudent advice was summarily rejected by the Board. The result was a 1.5 cent tax rate increase in April, 2017, when with no more surplus to spend, the County decided it had to increase taxes to cover a budgetary shortfall.

If you plan to attend one of the remaining budget roundtables, please come prepared to ask County staff how it plans to reallocate FY 2018 close-out funds, and tell them that the Independent candidate for County Board sent you.

Also, if you’re sick and tired of the County’s spend now, pay later approach to the budget, then elect another Independent to the Board. As a fiscal hawk, you can be sure that I will join John Vihstadt in urging the County to revamp the way it allocates surplus funds. I will also lobby for no more tax rate increases.

As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy, donating to my campaign, or volunteering to help me on Election Day.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

PRESS RELEASE: Tax Hike on the Way, Despite Huge County Surplus

A  hefty tax rate increase is in store for Arlington County residents and businesses, but Independent County Board Candidate Audrey Clement says a tax increase isn’t needed–not until the County spends down its surplus.

April 4, 2017, Arlington, VA.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is asking for a 2 cent tax hike that will increase average residential 2017 real estate taxes by 4 percent or about $300. Yet the latest Consumer Price Index indicates that the annual rate of inflation is only 2.7 percent.

Mark Schwartz argues that increasing school enrollment and declining Metro ridership require taxpayers to step up to the plate. While both schools and Metro are major priorities, these operations should not be balanced on the backs of Arlington taxpayers.

According to the Arlington Civic Federation’s Revenues & Expenditures (R&E) Committee, rising real estate assessments will push the average 2017 tax bill up 2 percent even without a tax rate increase, and taxes have gone up 16.8 percent in the past four years.

Aside from the issue of fairness, there’s a question of need. The R&E Committee reviewed the County’s 2016 Consolidated Annual Financial Report (CAFR), Exhibit 3 and determined that “there is a $114 million surplus of unspent funds-beyond what the County Board budgeted in FY 2016-that could be reallocated.” These funds could easily cover the Metro and APS shortfalls, which the County Manager’s FY 18 budget presentation puts at $5.9 million and $11.1 respectively.

According to civic leader Suzanne Sundburg, County surplus funds do not include Arlington Public School (APS)’s unallocated surplus of $19 million, reported in the Superintendent’s FY18 proposed budget (book 128-29, web 136-37).

Clearly County and School Board accounts are bloated with excess unspent funds that could reallocated to meet current needs.

If elected, you can be sure that I will seek seek a full accounting of the County’s surplus funds. I will use the excess to cover budgetary shortfalls instead of gouging the taxpayers.

To that end, I support an R&E Committee resolution calling on the County Board to reject the County Manager’s proposed tax rate increase and maintain the current tax rate of $.991 per $100 of assessed value.

In addition, I plan to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit

www.AudreyClement.com

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by volunteering for or donating to my campaign.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

PRESS RELEASE: Vote Clement to Cure Election Stress Disorder

Millions of people are turned off by this year’s presidential election. In fact so unhappy is the public with the major party presidential candidates that psychologists have come up with a new diagnosis–Election Stress Disorder (ESD)–characterized by anxiety over the prospect of electing either one of them!

If you’re an Arlington resident suffering from ESD, a cure is in sight. No. I’m not running for President. But as an Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, I offer local voters a change from business as usual to real reform. Never have Arlington residents been more in need of this remedy.

Continue reading