Lower School Budget

April 15, 2008

Steve’s Leesburg Blog

The counties need to reduce spending due to lower tax collections came home to the school board April 1. Lower assessment and reduced state funding has had an impact in many county departments, but none bigger than the school board.

After hours of debate, the Loudoun County School Board adopted a school budget of $745,600,922 about $55 million more than this years and taking into account Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick’s package of $48.7 million in reductions. Harrick’s proposed reductions include reducing pay raises from 6 percent to 3 percent, eliminating 36 new positions for English as a Second Language teachers and assistants and increasing the average class size by one student.

On the plus side, the board voted to provide two more paid holidays for classified, or non-licensed employees and to expand full-day kindergarten services to three more elementary schools. Pricilla B. Godfrey (Blue Ridge) originally had made a motion to introduce full-day Kindergarten to four schools, Aldie, Lincoln, Hillsboro, and Middleburg. Although all four were not approved, three schools does make the statement that the county is serious about full-day kindergarten.

The added three school full-day program is partly funded by the elimination of $160,357 from the budget which was destined for the purchase of interactive whiteboards and the elimination of PDAs intended for physical education instructors.

Steve’s Comments

It’s hard to imagine a county said to be one of the richest in the country does not have sufficient funds to provide adequate raises and for new teachers, plus one more full-day elementary school with resorting to things like taking away PDAs from coaches.

Supervisors Approve Property Tax Increase

April 2, 2008

Steve’s Leesburg Blog
Tax Rate Boost Approved

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors faced with multi-million shortfalls in property taxes for the next several years has taken action to shore up the counties tax revenue stream. The board approved a 19% property tax increase. The increase will add approximately $300 to the average county homeowners tax bill.

The newly seated Democratic majority board narrowly approved a $1 billion budget plan that requires an 18-cent tax increase, raising the rate per $100 to $1.14. The plan works out to about a 6.5% increase for the new budget year starting July 1.

The unexpected drop in assessments across the county is causing a $25 million shortfall this year. The schools expect to enroll 3,000 additional students this fall. The two together drive the higher than normal increase. A major factor with the budget shortfall is the pace of growth. Although growth has slowed some since 2004, the US Census Bureau tagged the county as the fastest growing in the country then. The struggle to keep up by investing in public safety and schools have long been a high priority under both Democratic and the older Republican leadership.

The boards two Republicans and Chairman Scott K. York supported a more modest increase, but were out voted by the Democratic majority. Susan K. Buckley, Sugarland Run Democrat and Vice Chairman proposed a rate of $1.15. Her proposal would have delivered $10 million more to the school system. Even with that extra money, the school budget would have been significantly lower than the requested amount.

Steve’s Comments

This is the kind of news we have all read before, and should expect to see again. The county is and will continue to be a fast growing Washington, DC sleeping suburb. As such, when the economy is thriving all will be well, and when it slows up, budget shortfalls are going to be the staple of the day. The only thing we can actually do anything about is to try our best to pick the best managers available and then support their decisions.

Republican Changes In Loudoun

April 1, 2008

Steve’s Leesburg Blog

A lot has been going on in the Loudoun County Republican Committee since the nearly swept out the door debacle on November 6 of last year. Democrats nearly cleaned out the long time Republican dominance over the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. That election and Democratic victories in other races provided evidence, once a Republican stronghold was now becoming a Democratic enclave.

The Republican Committee elected Glen A. Caroline as Chairman, after he was heard to say “If I was going to lament the status of our Republican Party and its lack of leadership, I decided it was better to step into the breach and put my money where my mouth was.” On March 15, Republicans formally selected Caroline, the only candidate for the post as chairman.

Caroline, a father of two, and community organizer from South Riding rose to chairman on a promise to unite a party with broad base differences on some important issues, mostly dealing with growth and development. In recent years, opponents of strict government controls have led the party, but more recently certain factions envisioning higher taxes and no support for slower growth have left the party. Caroline wants to find a common ground for the two factions, and therefore focus the party on core Republican values such as low taxes, strong national defense and a belief in “the rule of law.”      

The new Caroline message has caused some previously estranged Republicans to return to the fold. Lovettsville resident and former board member H. Dean Settle, a vocal critic of the committee’s previous leadership, and one who left the party rejoined  this spring in the hopes that Caroline will make good on his pledge.

Steve’s Comments:

Although the big sweep is in for now, the powerful factors that brought about the interests problems in the past are still there. For any worthwhile compromises to take place, some members are going to have to yield from there long held positions. The new leader will need the wisdom of a great facilitator to demonstrate any progress in the next one or two years. This is a tough road to hoe. We should all try to help in any way possible. The future of our younger county residents depends on well balanced changes.


February 6, 2008

Discussion Areas-

Roads and Highways:

The sudden halt of forward motion of the proposed rail extension of Metro to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun has caused many exasperation related headaches already. The Federal Transit Administration announcement last month that the line appears to not meet federal cost benefit criteria was a real slap. Tony Howard, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce has been quoted saying “The impact on our local economy will be profound if this does not go through. Many people and businesses have been operating under the assumption that Loudoun would be connected to the nation’s capitol and visa versa via rail service. Those assumptions are on the verge of being smashed. This impending decision will negatively affect our quality of life-economically, environmentally and socially.”

Steve feels it is imperative that the commonwealth government and the FTA work out a compromise plan that will get this program running again. Rep. Frank R. Wolf was successful in 1999 of securing $24 million for the project. We need that money and the other millions budgeted since to reappear soon. Everything is at stake.

Cultural Events:

Among the many nice cultural event occasions that Leesburg residents are able to enjoy is the First Friday Night on the Town. This event is part of the Leesburg, Discover the Charm and Meet Me Downtown in Leesburg promotional programs. The events are centrally located at the intersections of Market and King Streets. They start at 6 PM and run until 9 PM on the First Friday of every month.
There is live music, art showings, a live comedy show at the Tally Ho theater, recipe tasting presented by The Very Virginia Shop, Yoga Happy Hour, and even an on street furniture sale handled by the Old Country Peddler store. There is something for just about everyone.

Steve thinks first nights are great. Having participated in a couple of them in Frederick, MD, he knows they are fun and entertaining. A good thing for everybody.

Community Issues:

One of the hottest issues in Leesburg and surrounding Loudoun County concerns the conviction of several important people that it’s time to change from a Sheriff’s Office to a county police department form of law enforcement. The two behind the change are Mike George and Greg Ahlemann. They feel that with the counties rapid growth, we soon will emulate sister county Fairfax, and we should start building for the inevitable now.
The opposite side is of course represented by current Sheriff Steve Simpson. His most heard words on the subject are “I am accountable to the voters,” meaning he is directly accountable without going through the 9 person county Board of Supervisors. In the past, when this subject has come up a vote, George and Ahlemann together have garnered many more votes together than Simpson alone with his insistence on the status quo. Sheriff Simpson is backed by Supervisor Chairman, who also feels it is to early to change, noting that Loudoun’s population of 263,000 I s25% of Fairfax County.

Steve sides with Mike George and Greg Ahlemann because a canvas of Mid-Atlantic counties would not doubt reveal that the most modern, well equipped, and effective police organization are in fact city and county police departments, not low population rural sheriff’s department.

Steve’s Real Estate Review

February 4, 2008

1st Property: 42896 Secretariat Court, Leesburg, VA 20147

Listed Price: $490,000 Sold Price: $475,000 Taxes: $4,395 Days On Market: 90 Property Basics: Colonial, 4-BR, 2-Bath. Year Built: 1995 House SF: 2,264 Lot SF: 7,405 Additional Details:Recently painted in and out. Well landscaped, nice color combination, kitchen upgraded.

Steve’s Comments- This house is in close-in desirable neighborhood. It and the other homes on the street are all in well cared for condition. Its 2-peak façade and front bay window design make it a standout.

2nd Property: 20617 Preakness Court, Leesburg, VA 20147

Listed Price: $450,000 Sold Price: $420,000 Taxes: $3,890 Days On Market: 112 Property Basics: Colonial, 4-BR, 2-Bath. Year Built: 1993 House SF: 1,980 Lot SF:10,890 Additional Details: Nice home in showroom condition. Recently replaced carpet and kitchen appliances.

Steve’s Comments- This house sold originally (1993)for $195,00, and now for $420,000, a 115% increase in value in 15 years, an average of 8% appreciation per year.

3rd Property: 711 Princeton Court NE, Leesburg, VA 20176

Listed Price: $625,000 Sold Price: $570,000 Taxes: $5,190 Days On Market: 114 Property Basics: Colonial, 5-BR, 4.5-Bath. Year Built: 2003House SF: 4,253 Lot SF: 8,000 Additional Details: Located in desirable Edwards Landing in a cul de sac Like new house, with fully finished 3-levels, plantation shutters, kitchen bay window, fully fenced back yard and Trex deck

Steve’s Comments- This home with its fully bricked front facade and brick entrance way steps makes a strong statement. Good buy.

January 28, 2008

Steve’s Discussion Areas –

Current Events of Interest:

The Dulles Area Association of Realtors has announced their view that 2008 is going to be a year of opportunity. The pluses are there for any serious observer to see. Loudoun has a wider then usual selection of housing inventory; that coupled with favorable mortgage rates, and the shift to safer FHA loans and a strong, nearly fully employed economy are key ingredients for future personal economic growth. The future growth in Loudoun continues to look strong according to Loudoun County’s Department of Economic Development. Their year end 2006 report says the population is expected to increase 39% over the next 10 years. The report says the county’s population grew by 58% from 169,999 in 2000 to 268,817 people in 2006 making the county the fastest growing in the United States during that period.

Steve’s Comments:

I have heard it said, “it doesn’t get any better then this,”
but then that statement usually comes from pro-growth people. If fast growth, possibly out distancing infrastructure growth, is for you, then you have found the place. Leesburg and the surrounding Loudoun County are booming places. New everywhere you look, roads, stores, schools, over 50 developments, 10 screen theaters, restaurants, you name it.
It’s all here. If a slow, laid back environment is more your thing, you will probably feel more at home in 1 or 2 of the counties west of Leesburg. Personally, I like everything being new.

Cultural and Home Base Developments:

A cultural icon and historic gathering place for local residents, Tally Ho Theater, was thought to be lost by all of us a few months ago. But, in the nick of time, The Market Street Production Company saved the day. The new owners brought with them new ideas and most important, new enthusiasm.
The new group is offering movies on one side and local live theater productions on the other side. The Friday night live comedy shows by two local groups, The Pickled Punks and Last Ham Standing have already attracted theater goers ranging from elementary age, through parents and of course grandparents. A favorite thing for all ages is the involving of the audience in the skits. The shows never fail to provide an evening of laughter and applause.
The new owners don’t plan to ignore the movie side of the house either. Every effort is planned to acquire the best, the newest and the most entertaining movies to appeal to a wide range of movie goers. Although the new super size movie theaters have A lot to offer, they can’t offer the same thing the Tally Ho does. Welcome to town and good luck to you.

Steve’s Comments:

Everyone I have had the occasion to speak to about the surviving of the Tally Ho has had a positive take on the new venture. The ones with the strongest feelings are the natives who grew up in or near Leesburg. They were saddened to hear that the theater was closing, and now they are most joyous to learn that it’s not gone, it’s still here with us and even seems to be an improvement. I am going, how about you?

Loudoun Schools Earn Governor’s Award:

Eighty-nine Virginia public schools met the tough criteria to earn the Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence. Among the award schools announced by Governor Timothy Kaine were eight Loudoun County schools: Belmont Ridge Middle School, Broad Run High School, Farmwell Station Middle School, Hillsboro Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Loudoun Valley High School and Waterford Elementary. The reward is the highest honor created under a new incentive program created by the Board of Education to advance the governors “competence to excellence” agenda for Virginia schools. Kaine said “students in these schools are soaring far beyond the minimum requirements of the Standard of Learning and No Child Left Behind programs.

Steve’s Comments:

It is wonderful to think that our young people are receiving a top flight education in our public schools. I understand that this top award is an indication that our schools are top flight, something we should all be proud of.

Roads and Highways Issues:

The supposed $300 million deposit to Virginia’s treasury as a result of the hurriedly passed Abusive Driver fines the General Assembly passed in 2007, has apparently mostly evaporated. Accordingly, the Virginia House of Delegates recently passed an overwhelming majority bill that repeals the fees. All well and good for the residents, but as pointed out by Del. Tom Rust (R-86), the problem now is how is the budgeted revenue going to be replaced. A meeting was just held with Governor Kaine to discuss possibilities, but as of now, no viable ideas have come forth.

Steve’s Comments:

Many words have already been written about the unfairness of the Abusive Driver fines, to which I will add my own. The fines plan stinks and should be appealed. I want to note that it’s not just abusive drivers who have been fined. An acquaintance of mine was stopped and fined $2,000 because unknown to her, her license had been suspended for reasons unrelated to reckless driving, but the then new law provided for heavy fines for other things too, such as driving on a suspended license. Good riddance as far as I am concerned.

January 22, 2008

Quick Review of Selective Homes Recently Sold

1st Property:  Address:152 Alpine Drive, Leesburg, VA 20175

Listed Price:  $550,000 Sold Price: $514,990 Taxes: $4,200 (2007) Days On Market: 112 Property Basics: Type: Colonial, 4 BR, 2.0 Baths, Year Built: 2006, House SF: Approx 2,700, Lot SF: 7,976 Additional Details: Almost new house in very desirable development, Evergreen Meadows. 2-Car Garage, Finished lower level, French Doors, Den, Gourmet Kitchen, Gas Fireplace, 2 Master BR Walk in closets.

Steve’s Comments- The homes in Evergreen Meadows were built to sell in the $600,000 to $750,000 range. This sale appears to be very advantageous for the buyer. Using a hypothetical original price of $650,000, the sold price of $514,990 represents a 22% discount. When the market turns around, the buyer should soon be well ahead.

2nd Property:  Address:43081 Capri Road, Leesburg, VA 20148

Listed Price: $475,000  Sold Price: $435,000 Taxes: $3,900 (2007) Days On Market: 210 Property Basics: Type: Colonial, 4 BR, 2.5 Baths, Year Built: 2006, House SF: 2,988, Lot SF: 8,276 Additional Details: 2-Car Garage, Finished lower level, Plumbed for  full bath, Walk out, Brick front, Expensive neighborhood, near Greenway.

Steve’s Comments- This nearly new home was owned by a bank due to foreclosure. It originally sold for over $600k. An exceptional buy. It will prove to be a very good investment when the market returns to normal.

3rd Property:  Address:40818 Red Hill Road, Leesburg, VA 20175

Listed Price: $579,990 Sold Price: $480,000 Taxes: $3,990 (2007) Days On Market: Property Basics: Type: Rambler (brick), 4 BR, 2 Baths, Year Built:1985, House SF: 2,225, Lot SF: 12,197 Additional Details: All brick, New roof, tilt-in windows, central air, kitchen (from top to bottom) deck, fenced yard, finished basement, shed, off-street parking.

Steve’s Comments- This is a typical county single level brick rambler with basement and large yard. A one-owner retiring-couple home in good condition. Most of the heavy lifting has been done; roof, kitchen, central air and heating plant, windows, painting, carpets, so home is in move-in condition. This home is situated in an older, quieter, mostly adult subdivision. Nice buy if you don’t require curbs, street lights and sidewalks.

Second Section – Trends

Close Up of Wider Area Community Trends and Issues
Leesburg General: Average Listing Price $610,000 -3% for year, Average Selling Price $460,903 +32% for year

Close By Areas:
Loudoun County in General:

  Sold Pricing

Access to businesses along Route 28

January 21, 2008

A smoldering issue for many Loudoun County residents is the access or lack of access from Route 28 to the many commercial establishments along it from I-66 to the intersection with Route 7 at he northern end. Last week, VDOT announced the permanent closing of the Cedar Green Road intersection. A number of concerned citizens groups have protested this move, offering the temporary solution of allowing it to remain open until the major reworking of the Pacific Boulevard/Waxpool Road is completed.  Steve sides with the community groups. It’s hard enough to safely enter and exit Route 28 businesses now. We don’t need for it to be even more difficult for the next few years.

New sponsors for Loudoun Summer Music Fest

January 21, 2008

Last month AOL announced it was dropping its support for the fifth annual Loudoun Summer Music Fest, a popular musical event presented on the grounds of Belmont Country Club. Last summer the series drew over 60,000 people, with proceeds benefiting local charities. Although the final lineup of performers for this summer has not been confirmed, the return of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pat Benatar is expected.  The Loudoun Foundation, manager of the event, has announced two new corporate sponsors; Initiative, a local management consulting firm; and Open Band, a local broadband provider.  Steve is pleased to learn of this neat recovery from what could have been a ruinous situation for 60,000 of our neighbors.

Water Restrictions

January 21, 2008

Continuing with the summer restriction, The Loudoun County Sanitation Authority announced Thursday that mandatory water restriction will remain in effect at least through winter. A major source of our water, Beaverdam Reservoir is 25 percent full.  Spokeswomen Samantha Villegas says it will take about 28 inches of rain to fill the reservoir.Steve is sorry to hear of this situation, but thinks the soon to be completed LCSA water treatment plant in Ashburn should help within 2 years. At least we won’t have to buy water from Fairfax County as we now do.