Well, it’s that time of year, again, when the Loudoun Board of Supervisors start talking about what tax rate they’re going to apply to homes in the County for this next year. As in years past, the driving force behind the push to increase the tax rate is our school system. Superintendent Hatrick is pushing for a school budget that is $106 million larger than last year. That’s an 18% increase, according to this report in the Loudoun Independent.
There are budget hawks who don’t want the rate changed at all from last year and there are those who want to hand Hatrick every dime he’s asked for in addition to all the other programs they’d like to see continue, expand, or start up. The County Administrator, Kirby Bowers, was directed by the Board to prepare budgets based on a tax rate of $.89 per $100 of assessed value (the current rate) and a maximum of $.96½. Bowers says he’ll do that as well as a middle-of-the-road $.92 rate.
I am looking to find a link to the budget proposal Hatrick has advanced. Another story on the issue at the Washington Post (go figure that’s where Hatrick decides to push his case – in the liberal rag that covers the whole region instead of keeping it local where this debate belongs) has Hatrick saying his proposal is “moderate” and one that the county can afford. Based on comments by Bowers, I’d have to say that’s an incorrect statement. Correctly put, the county can only afford Hatrick’s budget if it mandates grabbing more of the county resident’s cash by jacking up the tax rate. Nice to know that Hatrick knows my family’s financial situation well enough to dismiss any concerns about my affording the increase. Of course, not all of us make over $200K a year like Hatrick.
My Supervisor Bruce Tulloch said he was surprised by the proposal and questioned whether we need “backup custodians” at the schools. That’s a statement that really requires looking hard at Hatrick’s proposal to find the stuff he’s squeezed in there that the rest of us don’t find as compelling as he does.
One other point in the stories is the claim that the huge increase is needed to handle the debt service created by building new schools. Oooohhhhhhh, yeeeaaaaahhhh. Those bond referendums actually have to be repaid, don’t they? Hmmm.
Perhaps it’s time to revisit the whole design philosophy about these schools and where we build them, yes?
Smash has a link to a fascinating archaeological find that’s not getting as much press as it should, frankly. A device raised from the sea floor near Greece appears to have been an ingenious invention to compute the positions of the sun, the 5 known planets (perhaps) and the cycle of eclipses:
This is the Antikythera Mechanism. These fragments contain at least 30 interlocking gear-wheels, along with copious astronomical inscriptions. Before its sojourn on the sea bed, it computed and displayed the movement of the Sun, the Moon and possibly the planets around Earth, and predicted the dates of future eclipses. It’s one of the most stunning artefacts we have from classical antiquity.
The article contains some pictures of the device and (for a fee) you can access the entire printed article on-line complete with diagrams and such. If the analysis of the device holds up, it represents a huge leap over what was thought to be the pinnacle of technological achievement of the age. While it doesn’t prove any additional knowledge of the movement and relative positions of the solar system members, it shows a painstaking effort on the part of the inventors to observe the cycles of the sun, moon, eclipses, and planets over an extremely long period. The workmanship of the device, all else put aside, is a wonder. That these ancients had the ability to work such fine mechanical processes at all will be a revelation to most of our contemporaries.
A thought that just occurred is that these ancients did, in fact, know something that was most definitely lost during the Dark Ages. They clearly knew that an eclipse was a regular event. They might have even known for sure that the moon was the responsible body for the blocking of the sunlight onto the earth rather than any evil spirit or lack of faith on some person’s part.
In any case, it’s a fascinating story of human ingenuity.