A fair school aid formula for all of Virginia
Gordon Eliot White
Regarding the Feb. 1 Local Opinions commentary “Insult from Richmond” by Sharon Bulova, Corey A. Stewart and Scott K. York:
The issue of Virginia’s “Local Composite Index” (LCI), which is used in an attempt to equalize state education grants to localities based on their supposed ability to support their schools, is a sore point in much of the state. In their piece, the writers pointed out that because of lower real estate values, the LCI for their counties in 2010 ought to be lower and, thus, their funding from Richmond higher. I wonder, though: Haven’t real estate values declined all across Virginia, not just in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties?
In Middlesex County, where I live, reassessments are done on a four-year cycle. They were last updated in 2008, based on mid-2007 sales, very close to the 2006 peak in real estate values. Middlesex, with a population of just under 10,000, has no industry to speak of beyond agriculture and recreational boating. Fortunately, it has a large population of summer, weekend and senior residents who don’t have children in the public schools. But it also has a lot of waterfront property, to which Richmond attributes high values, thus raising the Middlesex LCI a great deal.
Unfortunately, even waterfront property with conservation easements, which is taxed far below its full value, is factored into the county’s LCI at the value it would have if it were not under easement.
Perhaps Richmond, rather than freezing LCI values, as outgoing governor Timothy M. Kaine suggested, should reexamine them and adjust them to the reality of the depressed real estate market and eliminate the distorting effect of such measures as conservation easements.
| February 3, 2010; 6:24 PM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Virginia, schools
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