Category Archives: Efficiency in Government

Another Rubber-Stamped UVA Budget, But Some Useful Discussion This Time

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors unanimously approved a $5.9 billion budget for UVA in 2024-25. The $2.4 billion budget for the academic campus in Charlottesville represents a 6.8% spending increase over the current year. The budget also includes $3.3 billion for the UVA medical center and $76 million for the College at Wise.

Although the Board session was free from controversy, Board members did lay the groundwork for deeper analysis next academic year when Governor Glenn Youngkin’s appointees will comprise a 13-to-7 majority of the Board. In the scant time allowed for discussion, the Board addressed two critical topics that had been missing from the Ryan administration’s presentation of the budget: faculty productivity and the size and cost of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy.

Board member Doug Wetmore got straight to the point regarding DEI spending, asking point blank, “What’s the DEI budget for the upcoming year, and how does it compare to the previous year?”

The DEI budget is $7.5 million, answered Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis, who added that the number includes the cost of the EOCR (Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights) office, which is charged with enforcing federal civil rights law and is folded into the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Continue reading

Footloose Aaron Spence. Having Fun On Loudoun County’s Dime

Republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed and Unedited.

by Kerry Dougherty 

Let’s just admit it. Those of us who thought Aaron Spence was a disaster as Virginia Beach School Superintendent are experiencing a shameless bout of schadenfreude.

Yep, we’re enjoying the misfortune of others.

Those “others” would be Loudoun County parents and taxpayers. Aaron Spence is their problem now. He left Virginia Beach last year for the greener pastures of Loudoun County, the richest in the U.S.

According to excellent news reporting by tenacious ABC News7 reporter, Nick Minock, Spence has only been on the job for just nine months but has spent 30 days out of the district at a variety of boondoggles, er conferences.

Spence who makes a whopping $375,000 a year, ducked out of Loudoun County 10 times this school year for destinations such as Miami, West Palm Beach, San Diego and Puerto Rico, as well as several closer to home. According to records obtained by the reporter, it appears taxpayers picked up the tab for his conference registrations, hotels and travel, while at least in one instance he slurped up $15,000 for teaching two seminars at the conference seminars.

This would be just another example of a greedy public official living large off the generosity of unsuspecting taxpayers, but this case is much, much worse. Continue reading

Four Years In, Energy Subsidy Helping Very Few

From Dominion’s brochure on the PIPP program.

By Steve Haner

Four years after approval, a state program to provide lower electricity costs to low income families is still struggling to get going.  Administrative costs have far exceeded any actual benefits to utility customers to date.

It is called the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP) and was created by the 2020 General Assembly as part of the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Almost three years ago, both Appalachian Power Company and Dominion Energy Virginia received permission to charge extra on their customer monthly bills to fund it.

Both companies have now filed updates with the State Corporation Commission and are seeking to adjust the amount they collect from general customers.  Dominion, which had enrolled 8,600 PIPP beneficiary accounts as of late March, is seeking to eliminate its monthly charge for a while. Appalachian, which still had zero customers enrolled by the time of its report, has applied to raise its surcharge.

Both are relatively tiny amounts so far. Just how large and how expensive the program might become over time remains anybody’s guess, but as utility costs grow so will the total amount of subsidies and surcharges. The intention is to limit a poor family’s electric bill to 10 percent of income if they use electricity for heat, and 6 percent if they use some other heating source.

So, another cost driver for the long term will be the continued push from government to eliminate the use of anything but electricity for heat. Natural gas and heating oil are squarely in the crosshairs of the Biden Administration and others who accept the climate catastrophe narrative and blame it on carbon-based fuels. Continue reading

Two-Mile Moonscape in Virginia Beach: Thanks, Bureaucrats!

by Kerry Dougherty 

Virginia Beach politicians are doing their happy dance. Earlier this week state officials gave them good news: they’re “near the finish line” on the Laskin Road project.

Oh, please.

We’ve seen this movie before.

Let’s review, shall we?

In 2019 construction began on the two-mile-long road widening project through the heavily traveled Hilltop corridor of Virginia Beach.

Continue reading

Open the Books Digs Up 100 More DEI Employees at UVA

Adam Andrzejewski

by James A. Bacon

Back in March, Adam Andrzejewski and his team at Open the Books, a non-profit dedicated to transparency in government spending, concluded that the University of Virginia is spending $20 million in payroll for 235 employees (including student interns) on work relating to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Describing Andrzejewski’s numbers as “wildly inflated,” UVA officials countered with a count of 55 employees earning salaries of $5.3 million.

So, Andrzejewski sent his researchers back for a second look. As it turns out, Open the Books concluded, their initial findings were far off the mark. They were way too low. The organization has identified 100 additional employees across 80 offices and departments who have been sucked into the University’s DEI vortex.

These are employees who, in addition to their primary roles at the university, contribute variously as DEI deans, directors, project leads, coordinators, representatives, fellows, council members, faculty advisors, ex officio members, and even “JEDIs” (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion personnel), Andrzejewski writes in a column published in City Journal. Continue reading

Virginia Beach Budget Will Lower Your Standard of Living

When Councilman John Moss narrowly lost his seat on City Council in a 2022 three-way race, Virginia Beach lost the lone elected official who actually understood municipal budgeting. Moss could be counted on to make city budgeteers squirm as he peppered them with intelligent questions about why they continually funded vacant city jobs and then used the surplus as a slush fund for the pet projects of city cronies. Plus he ALWAYS pressured his colleagues — fruitlessly, as it turned out — to lower the annual real estate tax rate to give homeowners relief from soaring assessments.

John Moss, who was first elected to City Council in 1986, is running for mayor. We asked Mr. Moss for his input on the budget City Council will vote on tonight.

—Kerry Dougherty 

by John Moss 

No Beach family or resident who lives alone needs to be told they are losing control over their economic lives. We all know our purchasing power is in free fall.

Inflation benefits only tax collections.

There is one group in our community that is clearly detached from the economic reality that Beach residents — and all Americans — understand and experience each day.

That group is the Virginia Beach City Council. Continue reading

Fairfax Spends More, Teaches Less

by Arthur Purves

(Editor’s note: Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, addressed the Fairfax County School Board on Feb. 13, 2024. His remarks, with updated numbers, are posted below.)

At church I get to ask students and parents around Vienna about our schools. The feedback is positive, and we appreciate your dedicated teachers and administrators.

However, as FCPS spending goes up, achievement goes down. Over the past 5 years, per-student cost has increased, from $16K to $21K, while SAT scores fell, from 1212 to 1181. Never in half a century have FCPS SAT scores seen such a precipitous decline.

Your crucial failure is in teaching minority students mastery of reading and arithmetic by third grade. Most of our crime is committed by individuals whom the public schools failed to teach reading. The fault is the curriculum and unaccountable administrators,not the students, their race, nor their families. Your budget does not even mention Equal Access to Literacy, which was supposed to replace whole word reading instruction with phonics. Continue reading

Factoid of the Day: Nation’s Worst Mail Delivery

How bad is on-time mail delivery to Central Virginia? According to U.S. Post Office inspector general figures, it is the worst in the country. Postal service is so bad that a Richmond electoral official warned voters not to risk letting their ballots, in the words of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “be swallowed by a dysfunctional Postal Service.” — JAB

University of Virginia Spends $20 Million On 235 DEI Employees, With Some Making $587,340 Per Year

It takes tuition payments from nearly 1,000 undergraduates just to pay their base salaries!

Bacon’s Rebellion is reposting this article published by Open the Books, a nonprofit group dedicated to transparency in government spending, and republished on the Jefferson Council blog. Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski will speak at the Jefferson Council 3rd annual meeting April 9. Register now to attend. — JAB

The University of Virginia (UVA) has at least 235 employees under its “diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)” banner — including 82 students — whose total cost of employment is estimated at $20 million. That’s $15 million in cash compensation plus an additional 30 percent for the annual cost of their benefits.

In contrast, last Friday, the University of Florida dismissed its DEI bureaucracy, saving students and taxpayers $5 million per year. The university terminated 13 full-time DEI positions and 15 administrative faculty appointments. Those funds have been re-programmed into a “faculty recruitment fund” to attract better people who actually teach students.

No such luck for learning at Virginia’s flagship university – founded by Thomas Jefferson no less. UVA has a much deeper DEI infrastructure. Continue reading

The Mailman Did It

by Jon Baliles

They say bad news comes in threes, and this week is no exception for news from the City of Richmond’s Finance Department. This week wasn’t just raining; it has been a monsoon when it comes to sloppy administrative work, penalties, interest, and deflecting blame.

Madison McNamee with NBC12 filed a story last night that says a number of residents in the West End, all in the same area/street, never received their real estate tax bills and were fined with penalties and interest by the city for untimely payment. The residents on a street just off of Grove Avenue never got their bills and never knew about it until they were sent a hefty late fee with interest, and the residents were told it was the fault of the Postal Service.

Resident Ken Davis is a former Deputy Attorney General who said he always pays his city taxes and has lived in the neighborhood for decades, but got hit with $800 in fees and fines, which he paid immediately. He said under Section 58.1 3916 of Virginia Code that “penalty and interest for failure to file a return or to pay a tax shall not be imposed if such failure was not the fault of the taxpayer.” Continue reading

Stuck in the Secretary’s Office

Andrew Wheeler, Director, Office of Regulatory Management

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Youngkin administration is sitting on regulations needed to implement important legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2020. The delay constitutes a violation of that law.

In its 2020 Special Session, the General Assembly expanded the grounds for decertifying law-enforcement and jail officers. The background of this legislation was described in detail on this blog in a previous article, so there is no need to repeat that information here.

The legislation required the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), under the direction of the Criminal Justice Services Board (CJSB), to adopt statewide professional standards of conduct for law-enforcement and jail officers. The timeline set out in the legislation would have required the standards of conduct to go into effect by mid-December 2021, two years ago. DCJS missed the deadline. The CJSB approved the regulations on June 16, 2022. The Attorney General certified the regulations on Aug. 2, 2022. The Department of Planning and Budget completed its review of the economic impact of the regulations on Aug. 22, 2022. The regulations have been under review in the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security’s office since then—470 days, more than a year and a quarter. Continue reading

The Incomplete Case for Higher Tuition at UVa

by James A. Bacon

As the Board of Visitors ponders how much to raise tuition & fees in the next two academic years, the University of Virginia is grappling with strong inflationary pressures and a long-term shortfall in state aid, senior university administrators said Wednesday.

Even so, administrators told the Board’s Finance Committee, UVa offers a great “value proposition” compared to other Top 50 universities. Its in-state tuition is lower than that of top private universities, and its four-year graduation rate is the highest of any public university in the country.

The Finance Committee meeting yesterday marked the beginning of a two-month decision-making process. The purpose of the initial meeting, said Committee Chair Robert M. Blue, was to provide “context” for the discussion. A November hearing will allow students and others to express their views about college costs. The Board is scheduled to adopt a new tuition structure in December. 

Although university officials did not say explicitly that a tuition increase is justified, the “context” presented was geared to supporting such a conclusion. Board members offered no pushback during the one-and-a-half-hour session, asking only a few questions for purposes of clarification. They did not drill into the data proffered by administrators, nor, despite assurances that UVa was working assiduously to achieve efficiencies and reduce redundancies, did they ask for specifics. No one addressed faculty productivity, administrative overhead, or other drivers of university costs. Continue reading

UVa Spending on Staff Surges, Spending on Students Trails

Inflation-adjusted percentage increase of UVa E&G expenditures (in millions of dollars) compared to those of all 15 Virginia public four-year higher-ed institutions.

by James A. Bacon

Always alert for opportunities to arm the University of Virginia Board of Visitors members with statistics they don’t see in their board presentations, The Jefferson Council presents the table above, compiled from data published by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The takeaway: UVa boosted overall E&G (educational & general) spending faster than Virginia’s other public four-year colleges and universities between fiscal 2011-12 and fiscal 2021-22, but UVa funds were more likely to flow to faculty and staff and less likely to go to student instruction, student services, or research support.

E&G expenditures represent spending on an institution’s core educational mission. Under SCHEV’s accounting methodology, E&G strips out spending on athletics, dormitories, food service, and auxiliary enterprises. The Council’s data portal adjusts for inflation over the 10 years displayed above, so these figures reflect real spending, not funny money.

SCHEV breaks down E&G expenditures by seven broad categories so the public can get a clearer idea of where the money is going. The data are consistent with the interpretation advanced by The Jefferson Council in previous posts that UVa has experienced excessive growth in administrative overhead. Continue reading

Loudoun Supervisors Defend Exorbitant Junkets

by Ram Venkatachalam

Until recently, members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors haven’t tried to sell themselves as international diplomats and business development experts. They aren’t.

Nor do we have a long history of waste, fraud, and abuse when it comes to how members of local government spend our tax dollars, especially for money budgeted for constituent services.

But now four Democrat members of the Board have been caught red-handed in the biggest local government scandal in decades. This is what Entitlement looks like.

This year alone, Chair Phyliss Randall, and Supervisors Juli Briskman, Sylvia Glass, and Koran Saines have violated their oath of office by diverting nearly $100,000 in taxpayer money (that we know of) for first-class travel for themselves and others to Ghana and Uruguay. They even purchased a pricey camera to take pictures of themselves because it wasn’t enough to use their taxpayer-paid cell phones.

That money could have been spent to hire another elementary school teacher, firefighter, or deputy sheriff this year. Instead, it was wasted.

Our taxes paid for these four to travel with their aides, a political campaign donor and others under the guise of “sister city” partnerships – without a compelling reason, and with no return on investment.

The four supervisors did this out of a sense of entitlement, and Loudoun taxpayers paid 100% of the bill. Then, after being confronted by an investigative reporter for WJLA-TV7, they doubled down, and Chair Randall defended their actions. Many of their political allies have done the same, including Laura Tekrony, my opponent in the contest for Supervisor, Little River District. Ms. Tekrony is Chair Randall’s chief legislative aide, and her prolonged silence about the abuse is telling.

Instead of an apology or accountability from the four elected supervisors, Loudoun is being fed lies that more than $1.37 billion in investments and 2,500 local jobs resulted from these and similar “sister city” trips. In fact, the trips have produced absolutely nothing in economic benefits – zero dollars and no jobs, as documented by the county’s own records. Continue reading

RVA 5×5: Referendum Waiting In The Wings

by Jon Baliles

Three weeks or so ago, the regurgitation of the casino referendum got a round of approval from almost everyone on City Council in a meeting that was filled with unearned righteousness about how it was going to save the city (kudos to Councilwoman Katherine Jordan for the lone no vote).

Richmond BizSense reported that:

Councilmembers contended that misinformation about the project the first go-round warranted putting it to the voters a second time. They stressed that the development (no longer being referred to as a casino), would not involve funding support from the city and would create jobs and economic opportunities for Southside and the rest of the city.

Of course, most people knew this the last go-round because the advocates of the casino spent $2.5 million on billboards, mailers, and ads telling us ad nauseam about the “benefits” of a casino and how it wouldn’t cost the city anything. Now, they want to pretend we were too stupid to know that the real reasons they were pushing the first time around weren’t what they spent $2.5 million promoting.
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