Vivian E. Watts


Virginia’s state and local financing structure is under pressure. Aged schools have fallen into disrepair in localities without a tax base to back capital improvement bonds. Virginia’s commitment in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education to fund equal public education opportunity for all has eroded. As the dominate source of local government funding, the real estate tax adds to housing costs, consuming the largest share of household budgets. This article discusses current and historic Virginia debates on tax equity, economic sustainability, program ramifications, and non-resident cost-sharing. It raises questions about the widening income gap and changes in business activity, as well as Virginia’s extreme cost-of-living spread and its fifty-year-old economic measure that determines the level of state funding for each locality’s schools. The article provides broad context to help balance tax policy goals, political dynamics, and local realities in the informed debate that needs to take place to support enlightened action by the Virginia General Assembly.