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The Right Note: September Highs and Lows

The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

School is back in session and Arlington’s Public Schools had some bad news to deliver. Last week we learned that enrollment at the beginning of the school year is off by nearly 2,200 students from projections in the current budget — from 29,100 projected to 26,932 actual.

Thumbs down to the APS staff who had originally projected an additional 500 students would be back in school this fall and only pulled back at the request of School Board members.

If the current enrollment number holds that means Arlington will spend just a shade under $26,000 for every student enrolled under the topline budget number passed this spring. That number will drop slightly as Arlington will see its share of state funds reduced, but it should be remembered when the School Board claims they don’t have the resources to adequately educate our kids.

The School Board should give the public more answers on what went wrong in the projections? On the surface, it appears that many parents who opted their kids out when the schools were locked down are simply not coming back. Whatever the reason, as we build next year’s budget, we need to do a better job on behalf of the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

The County Board is also back from a two month break. Soon the board will start talking about another round of closeout spending and next year’s budget.

In the meantime, thumbs down to the new five cent plastic bag tax. Arlington has long wanted to impose the tax, but was previously unable to under Virginia law. The tax, which will go into effect in January, will produce little revenue and will do little to reduce plastic bag use. However, the new proposal makes Arlington feel like it is doing something for the environment. And, Arlington would have been left out of the club as D.C., Alexandria and Fairfax will all have bag taxes moving forward. Remember though, if you are switching to reusable bags to please wash them regularly as they often carry dangerous bacteria.

Speaking of Alexandria and D.C., thumbs down to the new logo which features the other two jurisdictions prominently in its design. The logo may have been one of the best among bad options, but it is still a disappointment. With all the name and logo changing, one has to wonder if calls to change the name Arlington itself will come one day?

Finally, thumbs up to the allocation of $15.1 million for stormwater infrastructure improvements. This is the type of infrastructure funding we should expect as regular course from our county officials, but why not give the appropriate pat on the back for doing the right thing?

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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