Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sen. Mark Herring Is Fighting to Reverse the LCI Freeze

The budgets currently being considered by the General Assembly all include massive cuts to education and, despite the efforts of organizations like the FEA, it does look like a large portion of them will remain. One of the more controversial aspects of education related spending has been that before leaving office Gov. Tim Kaine proposed freezing the Local Composite Index (LCI). This is important because the LCI is the method by which the state decides how much funding it will provide to localities for their school systems.

In years past, the LCI formula has resulted in the localities in Northern Virginia having to pay a much larger portion of their education related budget than other localities throughout the Commonwealth. Due to the diminished home values resulting from the poor economic times, however, the formula would allow for a larger portion of Northern Virginia’s education budget to be covered by the state in upcoming years. The fact that Kaine proposed freezing this formula (because it would supposedly save some money for the state) has therefore outraged parents and elected officials from NoVA.

After years of playing by the rules and dealing with the consequences, it simply isn't right that the one time the formula would actually benefit Northern Virginia localities the state was going to prevent these changes from being made. Legislators have therefore been spending a lot of time and energy trying to reverse the freeze and they even received some help on the issue from Bob McDonnell (I’ll give credit when credit is due). While there appears to be some positive signs that the adjustments will be made, there still is a lot of work that needs to be done on the issue. I therefore wanted to provide an update Sen. Herring gave on the LCI in an email sent out earlier today because he does a great job of explaining why it's an important issue and were it currently stands.
I've been working hard to change the proposed freeze on the scheduled recalculation of Local Composite Index (LCI) in the budget. The LCI is the formula that determines how much state education funding is distributed to each locality. This formula is recalculated every two years based on the most recent data relating to local property valuations, income and other factors. 

The Governor's introduced budget, however, would delay the scheduled recalculation for one year, preventing Loudoun and Fairfax from receiving additional funding. Delaying the reformulation would cost Loudoun County $35 million (about 7 cents on the real estate tax rate) and Fairfax County $61 million (approximately 3 cents on the real estate tax rate).

I have been very vocal in my opposition to this proposed freeze and began to organize opposition before the session began. I spoke out against this plan on the Senate Floor, introduced a budget amendment to reverse the freeze, and continue to press the Senate Finance Committee on the issue. Governor McDonnell has lent his support to our effort, but ultimately the General Assembly must take action. 

In recent days, both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee released their respective budget proposals. Fortunately, the Senate Finance Committee has agreed with my budget amendment to reverse the LCI Freeze, and the House Appropriations Committee accepted a similar proposal as well. As it stands currently, both the Senate Finance Committee budget and House Appropriations Committee budget restore the money that is due Loudoun from reformulating the LCI.
Since there will still be a lot of work to do on passing the budget in the House and then producing a single proposal, I highly encourage everyone to contact your General Assembly members and let them know that you don’t support freezing the LCI. Sen. Herring’s remarks suggest that there is room for optimism, but we still need to make sure that there isn’t any possibility that they will freeze the LCI. As members of the FEA said in their press conference about the budget in general, it is simply unacceptable “to balance the budget on the backs of children.” In my opinion, it is even more unacceptable to do so in a way that forces the children in a certain region to carry an extra share of the burden.

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