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Monday, August 15, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: Whose capital-spending numbers are correct?

Editorial: Whose capital-spending numbers are correct?

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The “Alfred E. Neuman ‘What, Me Worry?’ Award” of the week goes to Arlington Superintendent Francisco Dúran.

The superintendent found himself under fire from the county government’s Joint Facilities Advisory Committee, voicing concern that the $708 million Durán claims he will have available for future capital spending is, by the county government’s reckoning, actually only $466 million.

In response, the superintendent said he’d talked to County Manager Mark Schwartz, and received the green light to move forward as planned.

Schwartz “was very clear with us that he was not concerned,” Durán told School Board members. “He reassured us this was not a problem.”

And indeed, there could be perfectly logical explanations for the $242 million discrepancy. But for those of us in the community left scratching our heads, it is time to employ the old Ronald Reagan dictum: Trust, but verify.

The school system needs to be doing a whole lot more to explain the details to the public than the believe-us-we’ve-got-this-under-control response of last week.

The School Board next meets on June 23. One hopes there will be a viable explanation proffered in layman’s terms. Because the school system shouldn’t be embarking on yet another round of major infrastructure improvement without the entire community having a clear picture of how much money is available. It would be much better to clear this up now.

Looking more broadly: Inflation is raging, interest rates are spiking and School Board members have returned to the tricks of their predecessors in gold-plating every new facility and telling the public (as School Board chair Barbara Kanninen did on the Arlington Career Center project) they should be happy it wasn’t more expensive.

And as was the case leading into to the 2008-09 recession, today’s School Board members (not a one having served then) seem unable to acknowledge that fiscal reality may soon hit them in the face. The flow of money is not unlimited and the prospect of a looming recession (or worse) could cause the spigot to be turned off despite the best efforts of County Board members to tax an acquiescent populace into the poorhouse.

It would be much better to clear this up now.

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