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School Board Member 'Uncomfortable' With Mayor's Comments

Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak's recent comments about the School Board have strained relationships and Monday night at least one member said she doesn't want to have a joint work session with City Council unless problems are resolved.

The annual budget work session with the Fredericksburg School Board and City Council may not happen this year because of increasing tension with the city mayor.

School Board member Malvina R. Kay said during Monday night's meeting that she is reluctant to meet with City Council until the friction with Mayor Tom Tomzak is resolved.

"I personally would feel very uncomfortable going to the meeting and having to listen to some of the issues that he continues to raise regarding the School Board," Kay said. "I would welcome a more collegial relationship and not feel as if we are subordinates of his."

Kay said unless someone can guarantee that the two governing bodies will discuss an agenda that moves the city forward, she doesn't want to take part in any joint meeting.

School Board member Barbara Miller–Richards said there may not be a need for a joint meeting because the School Board is sending City Council a proposed fiscal year 2013 $36-million budget that is flat and does not request any additional local funding. The school system erased a $465,000 deficit mostly by not having as large of an increase in the Virginia Retirement System as expected. In the past five years, the School Board has only seen a $200,000 increase in local funding and that was last fiscal year. In the 2009-10 school year, the school system sustained a $700,000 cut. No one spoke during Monday night's public hearing.

At the Feb. 28 City Council meeting, in which he was critical of a school system program that teaches black mothers parenting skills and the local NAACP's lack of concern for "social injustices done to the children in this community by male irresponsibility." Tomzak also challenged the School Board to justify the cost of the school system's central office and he challenged School Board Chairman Jarvis Bailey to address his concerns. Bailey told a Free-Lance Star reporter that Tomzak was rambling and he wasn't going to engage him in his political games.

In an email the day after Jarvis' comments were in the newspaper, Tomzak sent out an email saying that he was disappointed in Jarvis' comments and accused him of avoiding answering important questions. Tomzak said he wants Jarvis to tell the public why the school system only has a class to teach black mothers parenting skills, and not a program for all parents, to justify the positions in the central office and to "speak out against male irresponsibility."

Jarvis did not address Kay's concerns Monday night, only to say that work to repair relationships is needed.

The calls to cancel the joint meeting may be premature, especially considering City Council has yet to introduce its budget.

The city is finishing up the reassessment process after skipping last year and all indications are that property values will be lower in the city, which means less revenue from the real estate taxes unless City Council adopts changes to the Real Estate Tax rate. Add to this a consultant's proposal that the city needs to increase its water and sewer rates, and City Hall could be getting a budget shock soon.

Major dips in revenue could force City Council to make major cuts and a majority may look to the School Board to share in those cuts.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article was not clear with the direct relation between real estate taxes and assessments.

Marcie Tanner March 06, 2012 at 12:22 PM
We need a City Council that works for the people, not themselves. We need change,more change than most of Fredericksburg is going to like, but we need it.
MichaEl Hirsch March 06, 2012 at 02:12 PM
You may object to the mayors manners but his message is spot on! The Commonwealth of Virginia is committed to providing quality education for all students. This commitment includes keeping parents and the public informed through the Virginia School Report Card of the progress of our schools in raising student achievement and enhancing the learning environment. The ratings for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and school accreditation for specific school year are based on the achievement of students on tests taken during the previous academic year. According to the Virginia Department of Education every school in Fredericksburg did not make Annual Yearly Improvement! That 's a fact which points to a systemic problem. No matter how you grade it, our schools are not in improvement. Beyond that there is great and unexcusable disparity among white and black students! Here's one glaring example - Virginia Assessment Results, Grade 7 Mathematics, 2009-2010, White fail rate = 29% while Black fail rate = 56%! Same children, same community, same school and teachers so why the glaring inequality? And by the way, don't blame socio economic factors or parental failure, those demographics are even worse! The School Board DIDN'T EVEN REPLY TO EMAILS, to a "non superman" comprehensive on site integrated wrap around support sollution, and the City Council en masse caved in to Mr. Howe's "out of recusal, let my attorney do the dirty work" NIMBY antics! Denied!
TPKeller March 06, 2012 at 02:18 PM
"all indications are that property values will be lower in the city, which means less revenue from the real estate taxes." Why would you make such a blatantly false statement? EVERY year that property is reassessed, the tax rate is also recast based on the new total property values. Sometimes the total tax income is raised, sometimes it is not, but you can be sure that a reassessment never has a direct impact on tax revenue. UNLESS the council specifically chooses to allow it to do so, which they would almost certainly never do.
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Because it's not blatantly false. If property is valued less, then the city generates less revenue and it will have to adjust the tax rate accordingly.
TPKeller March 06, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I challenge you to find a single case of a general real estate reassessment that was NOT followed by an associated adjustment in the tax rates. I will not say it never happens, but I will say if it doesn't, it is so rare as to be inconsequential. That makes your statement misleading at the very best, because the negative consequence you claim will result from this reassessment simply will not come to be.
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I'm not sure what you are getting so hyped up about but what I state is 100 percent accurate. If property assessments are down, then city council will either have to 1. raise taxes 2. make cuts 3. equalize the tax rate and see what the damage is. I am not misleading anyone. Real estate taxes are the No.1 revenue generator for the city. If property values fall, then the city would see less revenue in actual terms and will either raise taxes because the assessments are down or the city will have to make drastic cuts to services. My statement is in actual terms and I am not going to assume what the city's next action will be when they get the assessment values. But to say that revenue collection does not have any direct relation to assessments is kind of odd. Lower property values=less revenue. It doesn't mean the city will actually let that happen, and you're right, most governments don't let it happen--they either equalize the rate, make cuts or increases taxes. But they do all of those things because assessments decrease. When assessments increase, the city generates more revenue and it can either lower the tax rate to keep the revenue the same or take that influx of new cash and spend it.
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I've clarified the sentence to add what I thought was just common sense.
TPKeller March 06, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I suppose it is a matter of semantics. I'm not hyped up, but I do believe your original sentence is misleading because it is cast in a context of "oh no, things are bad, and they're going to get worse", when that is virtually certain to not be the case. The City Council would have to intentionally NOT adjust the tax rates to account for the new assessments in order for there to be a revenue crisis, and that is not going to happen. Real estate tax revenue is a math game, with "assessed value" times "the tax rate" equaling "revenue". When one changes, the other will be adjusted appropriately. Sometimes they adjust it to be revenue-neutral, other times they use the opportunity to change the overall tax income. This happens every time they do a reassessment, because people don't understand that the tax rates are set to provide a certain revenue, and not the other way around.
TPKeller March 06, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I think we are both saying the same thing, but your words are a bit sensationalist, and leave out the virtual certainty that a tax rate adjustment is an automatic response to every reassessment.
TPKeller March 06, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Ah, I just saw this.. I think that is much clearer!
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 05:16 PM
If the city doesn't raise taxes, then you're going to have a revenue crisis, if those assessments decline as much as I am hearing they might decline. But the news may be not as bad. It may be worse. I am just basing this on the school's composite index and the relation to lower real estate values. It's a different process, but they both involve real estate value
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
TP--all indications I heard are things are bad for this assessment (if the city waited another year, I think they'd do much better). All you have to do is look at the city school's composite index going up as much as it did and the direct connection to lower real estate values. I'm not making this stuff up and I would be very suspicious if the assessment come back positive.
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 05:22 PM
TP--awesome. Sorry for not being clear enough, I just thought it was obvious that the tax rate is adjusted when assessment values drop. I guess it's not and so I clarified it. But what I was told last night was that City Hall is going to have a very rough budget year...but the person was making guesstimations based on what he's heard through the halls.
TPKeller March 06, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I know nothing about the school budget side of this. I do know that in past years, people have used the one-side-of-the-story of the assessment process to unjustly raise concern. That's why I always push for correct use of the two completely different terms, "taxes" and "tax rates". This poor horse... she's about dead now... :-)
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Putting a stake through this .. now
Dan Telvock (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 05:33 PM
but you're probably going to pay more in your tax bill, my friend :)

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