Why so upset?
In response to comments by [Ward IV City Councilman] Chris Faraldi during the City Council work session on March 30, Mr. Faraldi’s indignation over a proposal to compensate Lynchburg School Board members is either contrived for the benefit of his antigovernmental constituency, or an indication of his disdain for the governance of the public education system in Lynchburg.
Either way, his comments demand a response. According to the Code of Virginia, the average compensation authorized by law for school board members serving on city school boards is $2,296.
Lynchburg’s proposal of $2,400 is less than that for Charlottesville, Roanoke, Hopewell, Salem, or Winchester, and only slightly higher than the average. The cost of this compensation to the city budget is estimated to be less than $30,000, and a minuscule percentage of the nearly $40 million budget proposed for Lynchburg City Schools.
Why is Mr. Faraldi so upset? I am sure he enjoys the compensation he receives as a Council member!
Alarmed but not surprised
I was alarmed — but not entirely surprised — to see Mr. Jeff Helgeson (Lynchburg City Council’s Ward III representative) put forward his latest short-sighted proposal: to slash taxes and the Lynchburg City Schools budget along with it.
This hit home for me mostly because I’m a Lynchburg City Schools student — a junior at E.C. Glass. I’ve had a front-row seat to the challenges and struggles of moving through virtual and hybrid learning over the past year.
Let me be clear: now is no time to cut the LCS budget.
Mr. Helgeson says he doesn’t want to “reward” LCS for poor achievement. But the school budget isn’t a reward. It isn’t an incentive you can hand out for good behavior, like candy or an hour on the Xbox. It’s a promise: a promise to students we support them and have the ability to help those who are struggling.
Because if these cuts go through, it will only prevent our schools from offering the arts and after-school programs that make LCS truly special. That’s what I love about being a Glass student — the support system we have from our arts programs to the Beacon of Hope. Cutting our budget will directly harm the students who need the most support. If students are struggling, fund schools more so we can hire the best teachers and offer the best programs! Don’t punish kids under the guise of saving the taxpayer’s dime.
That’s why I oppose cuts at any cost to the LCS budget. If you want the best education possible for your children, I urge you to contact your city council representative and Mayor [MaryJane] Dolan to tell them that you oppose any cuts to the LCS budget.
Lynchburg’s still affordable
I want to be a part of the chorus begun by Neal Sumerlin in his recent letter to the editor urging the Lynchburg City Council to maintain the current property tax rate and adopt the proposed city budget.
While some speakers at the budget public hearing raised the specter of people moving out of the city to the surrounding counties because of the high tax rate, the recent editorial in The News & Advance suggested just the opposite. The population in many counties is in fact declining. And the Lynchburg population is growing.
Yes, property values are increasing but Lynchburg still is a very affordable place to live compared to many urban locations.
I think statistics will show the potential added cost to the average property owner in Lynchburg based on the current tax rate and even the increased valuation will be far from an amount that will drive anyone into poverty.
Clearly, the normal process is that costs go up gradually over time. That is the purpose of cost-of-living increases in Social Security and wages. We should expect taxes to support services in the city also to necessarily increase. Personnel costs are the biggest part of the city budget and we want to pay all our city employees a fair and living wage.