Dear Supervisor Cook,

I support an 8-10 cent property tax increase, I hope you will vote for this rate!

I spent a lot of time thinking about and poking around in the proposed budget. I know today is the last day to give you out input on the proposed tax increase advertised rate you will vote on tomorrow.

Quite frankly, the proposed 4 cent increase is just not enough, unfortunately. The Lines of Business analysis has been very helpful to understand what we are spending money on. I think we are getting good services, but the rate of growth in the County (which is a good thing) is making it harder to stretch these services as far as they need to go

Arlington County is spending almost $19,000 per pupil compared with FCPS at $13,600-ish. My kids in high school said they lost their best teachers at WT Woodson over last summer because they jumped to Arlington and Loudon public school systems because they could make more money. My then junior Billy walked over to talk with our Del. Vivian Watts for his boy scout merit badge Citizenship in the Community, and the topic he discussed was teacher compensation and school funding.

We need to fully fund the schools. We are just slipping and the growing class sizes is causing stress and strain on the kids, on the teachers, and on the parent-teacher relationships. It is causing kids who need extra support to slip through the cracks and this can create greater social-emotional issues down the line, issues that cause kids to start to fail in life and need even more expensive interventions. I also think we need to put as much money as possible into early childhood interventions. Those just save money over time and they are seem to have a really good return on investment.

We are on the right track, getting jail diversion started, but we need to implement it faster by putting more money in early on. This should save us money. I would think you could even suggest an 8 cent increase with a 5 year sunset on 2 cents because of cost savings due to less incarceration.

I also really want to thank you for the money and support you have given to the youth behavioral systems of care. As part of our work with our Woodson parent group Community of Solutions, I have followed this program and its initial planning. The short term intervention services that they have recently lined up for four high schools should be great and really help a lot of families. But not enough. Woodson is not one of the four high schools that will get these services. I get parents coming to my NAMI Family Support group every month who say it is impossible to get private therapists in any reasonable time frame, and very few take insurance.

The other thing I am really, really concerned about for our area kiddos is the lack of a acute in-patient psychiatric care. Not long-term residential care. But, take them to the emergency, they are trying-to-kill-themselves-tonight care, or they have been-in-their-room-for-the-8th-day,-can’t-get-out-of-bed,-and-are-eating-barely-anything-so-depressed care. These kiddos need to get into a pediatric psychiatric-in-patient setting and get a thorough look over, work up for overall health, substance use and get a good clinical diagnosis, and some treatment started, The parents need to do a family check-up looking at risk factors and they need to get educated before these kiddos can head home. Instead, we have some 150 youth at the Fairfax EDs per quarter and they most often get discharged to home, with few options for connecting with therapists and specialists who are taking new patients. They don’t get the help they need while in crisis or after. It takes time to titrate up an antidepressant medicine. While starting a new med, it can be a very dangerous time. If they are actually, bi-polar (and not just depressed), the meds cause them to become manic and act impulsively. If they are having suicidal thoughts, the first days of antidepressants they may not yet have enough dosage to eliminate the depression; but just mood elevation and energy to act on their suicidal thoughts. This is why they need to be safe in an in-patient setting initially. We need to really address the deficit of psych beds for kids. The County needs to create a private-public partnership to catalyze investment in new acute care behavioral health facilities for kids. The ones experimenting with pain opioids and getting hooked need in-patient treatment too.

Thanks for your work on this budget. I know 8-10 cents is a lot. But, the seniors who are retiring-in-place are able to quality for a lesser rate. We just can’t continue to traumatize school parents with funding shortfalls every year. Families have enough stress. They need to feel supported, and that their kids are safe, in order to thrive at their jobs and keep our economic engine moving along.

Best wishes-

Heather Davies

BOS Contact Information