manassas journal messenger 02/05/01



February 5, 2001




tax divides Assembly:

Modified N. Va. sales tax bill reaches the House floor


Alfred M. Biddlecomb




RICHMOND – Both the House of Delegates and Senate put the final touches

on their versions of the state budget Sunday with the car tax acting as

the decisive wedge between the two chambers.

Gov. James S. Gilmore III is threatening to veto any version of the

budget that doesn’t include a planned 70-percent elimination of the car


The House seems to be going with the governor’s recommendation, while

the Senate’s version of the budget will only eliminate 50 percent of the

car tax this year.

With two conflicting spending plans expected to pass each chamber of

the General Assembly on Tuesday, a conference committee of four delegates

and four senators will be formed to hammer out a final amended budget. An

exact figure on car-tax relief is expected from that committee during the

final days of the session.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John H. Chichester, R-Stafford, made

it clear Sunday that the Senate’s opposition to Gilmore’s car-tax plan was

a fiscal decision based on the reality of shrinking state revenues needed

to fund such a measure.

Gilmore wants the General Assembly to approve a package that uses part

of the state’s allotment from the national tobacco settlement to boost revenues

required to trigger the 70-percent phase of car-tax reduction.

Chichester and other senators have said throughout the legislative session

that Gilmore’s plan simply borrows money to cut taxes, leaving the state

with limited money to fund needed services such as health care and education.

“It finances tax cuts with debt,” Sen. Charles Colgan, D-Manassas,

said about the Gilmore plan Friday. “Virginia has never done that.”

Chichester, whose district includes eastern Prince William, explained

Sunday that the Senate had no intention of placing debt on future generations

to help out with the car-tax cut.

“If we issue the debt, we can move the car tax [cut] to 70 percent,

but we pay an extra $210 million in interest charges over 20 years,”

Chichester said Sunday in his opening remarks to the Senate Finance Committee.

“Should we ask our children and grandchildren to pay an extra $210

million by 2020 so that we can each enjoy an average tax cut of $55 per

car this year?”

By dropping the car tax cut, the Senate was able to add money for mental-health

services, public safety and a 6-percent pay raise for teachers.

Chichester said the Senate version of the budget will also be used to

restore $256 million in cash spending originally cut to pay for car-tax

reduction. This includes a number of construction projects and the state

share of local juvenile detention projects.

“We will not suspend the car tax to spend money on our pet projects,

whatever ‘pet projects’ means,” Chichester said. “We will not

stop the car-tax repeal to add new programs. We will not stop the phase-out

to give some employees a sweeter salary increase.

“We will stop the car tax to keep our children and grandchildren

from paying 20 years for a benefit we receive now. This is the only fiscally

conservative course.”

Likewise, the House was still able to offer a 3.5-percent teacher pay

increase while maintaining car-tax reduction in its budget.

Another budget move in the House that upset some Richmond-area legislators

was the shift of $70 million in cash from the Va. Route 288 expressway project

into the state’s secondary road fund.

This would restore $70 million appropriated last year to help speed

up a number of state projects, but Gilmore took the money and replaced it

with debt in this year’s revised budget.

The Route 288 project, which travels west of Richmond toward Goochland

County, was accelerated by the state two years ago when Motorola had planned

to build a technology park in the area. The project has been placed on hold

and Delegate Jack Rollison, R-Woodbridge, said the $70 million could serve

the state better by filling the hole in the overall transportation budget.

“We run the risk of delaying a lot of local projects if that money

is not put back in there,” Rollison said. “We’re still going to

have to work hard the next 10 days to make sure that money stays in there.”


Sales tax referendum

Like a chameleon that changes color to survive in different surroundings,

a bill proposing a sales-tax referendum in Northern Virginia for transportation

and education funding continues to change form as it weaves through the

House of Delegates.

Less than a week after being killed by the House Finance Committee,

a bill proposing a 1-percent sales tax increase in the region to pay for

road and school needs was revived Saturday, but only as a half-percent increase

to fund only transportation.

The bill was changed once again Sunday when the House Appropriations

Committee reattached the other half-percent increase for education, thus

making the referendum proposal for a full 1-percent increase for Northern


The Appropriations Committee voted overwhelmingly to send the measure

to the House floor, where further changes could be in store.

“We could see some floor amendments or other technical challenges

to the bill,” said Rollison, who supports the bill. “We’ll see

some of the same objections we saw in the Finance Committee last week.”

If the bill gets into trouble on the House floor it could be amended

once again to reflect a half-cent increase for transportation only. Some

key lawmakers, including Centreville Republican Roger McClure, have voted

against the measure when the education component was included.

If the referendum bill passes the House, it would most likely get an

easier ride in the Senate, which approved a similar bill last week. Both

versions of the bill would let Northern Virginia voters decide on the sales-tax

increase in a November 2002 referendum.


Little money for local projects

As expected, lower state revenues have left little money in either the

Senate or House budgets for local projects.

Some local non-government projects, which received money last year,

may receive less or no money during the final year of the state’s two-year

budget cycle. Final amounts given to local organizations are usually settled

by budget negotiators from both houses near the end of the 46-day session.

Both the House and Senate budgets include no additional funding for

the Ben Lomond Manor House or the Brentsville Courthouse. Each received

$50,000 last year.

The House budget offers $100,000 to the Freedom Museum in Manassas while

the Senate version has appropriated $50,000.

The Manassas Museum System, which was scheduled to get $50,000, has

no funding in the House and Senate budgets.



for Mathis Avenue upgrade are high


Chris Newman




MANASSAS – The Mathis Avenue project nabbed three bids from contractors

in the city’s second solicitation of firms for the estimated $2.27 million

project that will widen the roadway and improve business frontages.

The city received no bids last November, so it actively sought out the

latest set. The three bids were $2,477,598, $2,620,884 and $2,950,000.

“It’s not what we had hoped for,” said Public Works Director

Mike Moon after the bids were opened Friday. He said it’s too early to say

what will be done with the project since the bids are high – as expected

with the busy construction market – but the project could be tinkered with

to lower the cost, additional funding could be found or it could be rebid


“We’ll analyze the bids, [but] can’t really say quite yet what

we’re going to do,” Moon said.

There is $2 million in funding set aside for project in the $10.6 million

bond issue voters approved in 1999; an additional $300,000 could be used

from the $653,800 in interest accrued from the bond issue. The rest of the

bond interest is designated for other projects including the City Square

project, Moon said.

The nine-month project will add a dedicated turn lane to the two-laned

Mathis Avenue, an additional through lane will be added on Liberia Avenue

at Centreville Road in its current left turn and through lanes, stormwater

drainage will be improved, electrical lines put underground, and the 22-by-46-foot

sign in the Manassas Park Shopping Center will be replaced by a smaller

arch-topped 22-by-30-foot sign.

The frontage of Manassas Shopping Center will be landscaped to break

up the center’s “sea of asphalt” and better delineate the entrances

to the shopping center.

City council will discuss the project at its Wednesday finance committee


· Contact Chris Newman at [email protected]



raises concern over lice


Tiffany Schwab



MANASSAS PARK – Concerns by a parent that the city’s elementary school

is overlooking a problem with head lice are unfounded, said Cougar Elementary

School Principal Ritchie Carroll.

The parent, who asked not to be named to protect her child, said her

7-year-old daughter has had lice 10 times in her three years with the school

system. She said other children are having problems with lice and school

officials are not doing their part to stop it.

“They’re not doing anything to prevent it,” the parent said.

Carroll said cases of head lice have been reported at the school, but

they have been isolated incidents.

“Kids do have lice,” Carroll said. “We don’t have an

epidemic of sorts.”

The school performs head checks of classmates after a parent or teacher

notifies school officials that a student has lice, she said. “We would

do whole class checks,” Carroll said, if an incidence is reported.

“We don’t have periodic regular checks.”

The parent said she has reported her child’s case to the school, but

was dismayed to find the school did not send out a notice that lice was


The parent said she has spent about $200 on shampoo, lice repellent

and a treatment spray for bedding and carpets.

Although the treatment has been expensive, the parent said the price

is not the issue. “I will manage to afford it, but quit making me have

to do it,” she said.

Carroll said school officials work with parents when they know of a

lice situation, but the school doesn’t always know when a student has the


Manassas Park has a “no nit” policy, meaning any child found

with lice or their eggs in his or her hair is sent home.

“We don’t allow them to stay in the classroom,” Carroll said.

Parents are required to treat their children at home, but that doesn’t

always happen, she said. Treatment could take some time because in addition

to the child’s hair, the bedding, laundry, stuffed animals and carpeting

must be cleaned.

The mother said she has followed a video outlining the proper methods

of treatment, but every time her child seems to be free of the bugs, she

returns to school and catches them again.

“It’s not like I’ve forgotten to do something at home,” the

parent said.

Her daughter has sores in her head from the shampoo. She said her daughter

was free of lice Sunday, but came home with an egg in her hair on Tuesday.

“We don’t have it in the summer when she’s not in school,”

the parent said.

She fears school officials are not checking the right parts of the head

when searching for lice or their eggs in a child’s hair. She said she saw

them checking the top of the head when most infected areas are usually around

the neck.

Carroll said the elementary school does not have an alarming problem,

but she understands that parents become angry when lice is a recurring issue

with their children.

Community sharing of combs spreads the bug, as does close interaction

with other children, she said.

“Do we miss some kids? Yes, we’re human,” Carroll said.

Other school divisions in the area said, like Manassas Park, lice is

generally found in isolated incidents and can be a recurring problem for

some families.

Sandy Thompson, supervisor of health services and staff development

for Manassas City Schools, said some years she sees resistant cases, but

this year has been OK.

“What we generally try to do is be very aggressive with it when

we do get cases of it,” Thompson said. The school will send letters

home to parents and perform checks on students in classrooms if one of their

fellow students is found to have lice, she said.

Prince William County Schools had a number of cases in September, said

Etta Jane Hall, elementary guidance coordinator. The number of cases ebbs

and flows, and normally the division has a few isolated cases, she said.

“At any given time, a school could have some cases,” Hall


When there have been chronic cases, school officials have worked closely

with the health department and social services, she said.

“Parents are very disturbed by it,” she said. “But it’s

not a matter of how clean you are.”

When children are found to have lice, the school asks their parents

to pick them up and treat their hair, she said.

“We might check that whole classroom, depending on the circumstances,”

Hall said.

In addition to the child who has lice, parents should check their other

children and themselves, she said, in addition to treating carpet, furniture,

stuffed animals, bedding and cloth car seats.

“Sometimes it’s sort of detective work to find out where the child

is getting them,” she said.

In addition to school, children can catch lice at sleep-overs, day care

and playing with other children.

If a child is treated for lice and the bugs return in a week’s time,

then they probably were never fully eradicated in the first place, Hall


Fortunately, lice don’t have any side effects, unless a child scratches

to the point of causing bleeding, she said.

· Contact Tiffany Schwab at [email protected]


sentence within guidlines:

Report says courts complying more with Va. sentencing standards


Patrick Wilson




Virginia’s circuit court judges are sentencing felons in accordance

with voluntary guidelines at a higher rate than ever since 1995, when the

commonwealth abolished parole and created the guidelines.

Judges imposed sentences within the suggested guidelines in nearly 80

percent of cases, according to the 2000 annual report of the Virginia Criminal

Sentencing Commission.

After the guidelines were established in January 1995, the compliance

rate was about 75 percent. In 1999, it was 77.4 percent.

Prince William’s five circuit court judges complied with the guidelines

last year in 81 percent of cases – slightly above the state average.

Fairfax County’s circuit judges complied with the guidelines 78 percent

of the time, slightly below the average.

The guidelines were set up after Virginia abolished parole and enacted

new “truth in sentencing” laws. The Virginia General Assembly

created the guidelines to provide judges with guidance when sentencing criminals

and make sentencing standards more consistent across the state.

After the guidelines were created, prosecutors criticized them saying

the guidelines allowed drug offenders to receive light prison sentences.

Plus, guidelines often are often much lower than sentencing recomendations

made by juries.

Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert has opposed the guidelines

and says that if it was up to him, he’d abolish them.

“As far as I’m concerned, they add nothing to the administration

of justice that I can see,” Ebert said. “You just can’t plug in

all the factors into a formula and come up with a good decision.”

Prosecutors often make recommendations inside the guidelines because

they know judges are unlikely to sentence outside the guidelines, Ebert


But as the guidelines continue to be revised, the suggested sentencing

ranges will become more narrow, he said.

Although they might not say so publicly, judges are worried about their

job security if they were to deviate from the guidelines too often, Ebert


Statewide, when judges deviated from the guidelines they sentenced above

the guidelines in 10 percent of cases and below them in 11 percent.

William J. Baker, a Manassas defense attorney who takes many court-appointed

cases in Prince William, said the guidelines have worked in favor of defendants

in some cases. But other times, they’ve hurt the defendant.

“They cut both ways,” Baker said. The guidelines have given

judges direction with sentencing, he said.






our e-mail list

| Contact Us




Similar Posts