Dear Fellow Manassas Park Residents,
It’s newsletter time again, and I hope this brief summary of issues will be informative.
If you would like to receive updates between newsletters,
please email me at:
or call: 703-401-0498
My Best Regards, Jeanette
Manassas Park Councilmember
A proposal again came before Council to increase the Solid Waste Fee, this time by 18%. Fortunately the initiative failed. I did not consider this large of an increase justified for several reasons.
No staff is directly assigned to Solid Waste. The FY13 and the FY14 budgets each allocated only 37/100 of a staffer’s time from Public Works to Solid Waste. Also there is no infrastructure associated with Solid Waste, and no debt bonding.
I felt the 18% was out of proportion to both the US inflation rate and vendor increases (garbage pickup). The US inflation rate was about 2.1% in 2012, 1.5% in 2013 and is currently running at about 1.5% - 2.1% for 2014. Total actual vendor increases for 2012, 2013 and 2014 was 3.04%
Therefore, I did not support an increase of 18%, but instead supported a 7% increase which was passed. I believed it was fair and also in line with the one third of a staffer allocation, the US inflation rate, and the vendor increases mentioned above. This also accommodates a yearly hazardous waste collection in the City.
As Manassas Park Residents, we can be very proud of our school systems achievements. Just a few of those achievements are: the High School achieved National AP Honor Roll twice in the past 4 years, just one of 6 school divisions in the Commonwealth; the robotics program is award-winning; there is greater use of technology and continued emphasis on STEM; our students have been accepted to colleges such as West Point, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell; and MPCS is one of only 22 school systems in Virginia that is fully accredited.
The above achievements were attained despite our schools experiencing a per pupil expenditure drop of more than 1/3 between 2008 and 2014. Fortunately, the City was able to provide some extra funding to the schools in the FY 2015 budget. As one of the City’s core services, strong schools are necessary, and more than simply a boost to property values. There is an intellectual infrastructure in our community, which is just as real and essential as the transportation and public facilities that we depend upon. Without the intellectual infrastructure, all other types of infrastructure will eventually suffer.
Improvements on Route 28 continue to be a prime focus. As mentioned in my last newsletter, VDOT is conducting a study to determine what congestion relief is feasible. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) provided $2 ½ million for the study of short and long range remedies.
The short term study is underway, data collection has been completed, and public input will be needed. The long range study has been postponed and I will explain why. The CTB has had no process by which it could evaluate the projects it funds. The General Assembly passed House Bill 2 (2014) which requires that the CTB develop a project selection process going forward. As a result the route 28 study has been divided into 2 phases, and VDOT only has authorization to fund the first phase (now in process). This short term study will analyze the benefits of: signal synchronization & timing adjustments, improved pedestrian and/or bicycle facilities, enhanced street lighting, improved signage, turn lane extensions and other related solutions.
Not included in the short term study are items such as flyovers, grade separation and any of the reversible lane scenarios. These options will be studied in phase 2, and will cost more to evaluate because of the engineering difficulties involved, and the safety issues to be considered. For example, when considering reversible lane options in a heavily traveled corridor such as route 28, a driver entering the corridor must determine in a very short period of time (usually seconds) what the directional flow of traffic is. There are also difficulties regarding left turns in a reversible scenario. Surmounting these difficulties brings extra expense in order to produce recommendations that are both safe and specifically tailored to the route 28 corridor. There are reversible scenarios in other geographic areas, but every corridor is different.
So the phase 2 funding request must pass through the CTB project selection process when that process is developed. There is every likelihood the request will succeed, but unfortunately this will delay congestion relief implementation.
City’s Credit Rating Upgraded
Recently Moody’s upgraded the City’s credit rating for general obligation debt from A3 to A2, indicating improved financial stability. Prior to Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s had upgraded the City rating from BBB to A+ in the spring.
Although reserves have been increased and there is a growing tax base, caution dictates we remember that the City continues to carry a high debt burden. There is still $127 million in general obligation debt outstanding. Increases in debt service are expected in FY2015 and FY2016, peaking in 2018. So far in FY2014 the City has only had to borrow $2 million in revenue anticipation notes, whereas in 2012 and 2013 $8 million was borrowed to make ends meet.
So our efforts should be to pay down City debt while maintaining strong core services in the City. This “no frills” approach is a necessity.