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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Garza fights back against BoS's failure to fully fund schools



Fairfax County Public School Superintendent Karen Garza issued a statement April 28 blasting the Board of Supervisors for failing to fully fund the school system.

The BoS voted to formally approve a budget for fiscal year 2016 April 28, which had been agreed to last week, that leaves FCPS with a $14 million shortfall next year.

“This is extremely disheartening - we entered this budget year making a good faith effort to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors,” Garza states. “We worked for nearly a year with the county executive and the Board of Supervisors to develop a reasonable budget that met only the very minimal needs of FCPS, and in the end they did not deliver.”

“Supervisors are sending a clear message that they are unconcerned about the increasing challenges of our students, our teachers, and our schools,” Garza continues. “We have grave concerns as to what will happen in the 2016-17 (FY 2017) school year when we face a devastating shortfall of more than $100 million.”

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross issued the following statement in response to Garza: “Again this year, schools and education were a top priority for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, ultimately accounting for 52.7 percent of the FY 2016 budget. I am proud that during this year’s budget process, the board was able to increase funding for our schools by $66.7 million over last year, for a total transfer of $2.01 billion. This increase and further investment in schools was done while maintaining our current tax rate and providing for the many public safety and community resources relied on by Mason District and Fairfax County residents.”

Jessica Swanson, who is running against Gross in the Democratic primary, had issued a statement after the BoS vote on the budget April 22 stating, “Local families and educators have been advocating for years for their local officials to do something about increasingly overcrowded classrooms, delays of needed school renovations, an explosion of language instruction needs, and non-competitive teacher salaries, but those concerns have fallen on deaf ears.”

Supervisor Gross claims to support our schools, but she just voted for a budget that shorts them in really damaging ways,” Swanson said. “Mason District deserves a supervisor who will make the tough choices necessary to ensure that Fairfax County Public Schools continue to grow and thrive.” She also criticized the board for giving supervisors a $20,000 pay raise.

Garza blames FCPS' deteriorating financial situation on chronic underfunding and a decade of significant enrollment growth and increasing student needs. Without adequate funding, she said, “we will not be able to sustain the current quality nor the full range of academic programming we currently offer our students.”

“With the scale of the FY 2017 shortfall, we will have to take a serious look at the programs that we must cut starting in the 2016-17 school year,” Garza states. “These cuts will likely affect all current academic programming, including limiting elective choices, reducing career and technical programs, impacting advanced offerings, and again raising class sizes at all levels.”

FCPS has cut 2,175 staff positions and nearly half a billion dollars since 2008. “We have fallen so far behind in teacher salaries that we are no longer competitive and are losing talented staff to neighboring school districts,” Garza continues.

“Losing our most experienced teachers will have a significant effect on student performance and will ultimately affect the reputation of FCPS,” she says. “Fairfax County public schools are frequently cited as one of the main reasons that businesses choose to relocate to the county, and Fairfax has some of the highest property values in the country, but without excellent schools as a foundation – corporate investment in Fairfax and property values will decline.”

Garza urges members of the community to visit FCPS budget website to learn more about the school system’s financial challenges and join the #saveFCPS social media campaign

43 comments:

  1. Dr. Garza fails to acknowledge the fact that property taxes have increased substantially over the past three years and are likely to continue rising as the economy improves. I suppose there are some property owners who wouldn't mind paying even more to fund Dr. Garza's idyllic vision, but I believe that the BOS is wise to recognize that most taxpayers are doing enough. Local governments have been hit hard by declines in federal and state spending. The local business economy is also still feeling the after effects of the 2008 economic crash. In short, there's no easy fix for generating additional revenue for the schools.

    I am also skeptical of Dr. Garza's claim that the schools are underfunded merely because the BOS refused to rubber stamp the school board's proposed budget. The BOS has allocated over half the County's budget to schools. That alone clearly indicates that education is its top priority. Moreover, Dr. Garza's criticisms largely appear to be little more than part of the same annual tug of war over school funding that's been a feature of Fairfax politics for decades. So, rather than incessantly playing the blame game, it would appear more constructive for Dr. Garza to curb her idealistic pretensions and stop pretending that she's working with a bare bones budget.

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    1. ...And cue the short memories. In 1997, Fairfax County real property taxes were $1.23 per $100. They were continuously slashed until about 2008, when they were .89 per $100. They are still lower than historical levels.

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    2. Governing is hard. Ideas and decisions have consequences. Penny Gross and the majority on the BOS want to have a policy of keeping an open door to the flood of illegal immigrants into Fairfax County and the enormous burden it places on the taxpayers.

      They have decided to do nothing about code enforcement which means even more illegal immigrants will flow into the area creating even more pressure on free taxpayer funded services and programs.

      They could have cut programs which subsidize and encourage the flow of illegal immigrants. They could end the lax enforcement of residential codes which encourage the flow of illegal immigrants.

      Rather than address the real problem of what is placing an enormous cost on the taxpayers, they have decided that our children and their education would suffer.

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    3. Nice try. However, the property tax rate was equalized for much of that period to reflect rising property assessments. That certainly hasn't happened recently even though property assessments have rebounded. In fact, I'm paying substantially more than I ever have for property taxes. I also expect that trend to continue as federal and state aid diminishes. However, Dr. Garza is unrealistically fostering a prep school model for the FCPS; i.e. an "everybody gets everything they want" model, including frills like elementary school Arabic language immersion. Those types of programs may be good options for elite schools like Sidwell, but they also annually charge $40k per student.

      I'm doing enough to hold up my end. However, I'm not interested in handing the FCPS a blank check. That would inevitably only contribute to a spiraling increase in expenditures that would inevitably have a detrimental effect on the same property values that the County relies on to fund its schools.

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    4. Oh christ. Language immersion is a positive expenditure of our school system. My children are not of school age now, but I'm looking into language immersion. It is not only for the residents of the toniest neighborhoods.

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  2. So candidate Jessica Swanson is complaining that the Supervisors didn't "fully fund" the Fairfax County Schools Budget? The budget approved by the Supervisors was only $14 million short of what the schools asked for and amounts to a $66 million increase over last year's school funding in the county. Does Jessica Swanson really think the sky is falling because the Supervisors cut the school superintendent's request by less than 1 percent? If the Fairfax School Superintendent can't find a way to make up for that miniscule cut to a $2 billion-plus budget, the largest school budget in Fairfax's history, then we need a new superintendent. As for Jessica Swanson, she should learn about the tough decisions that must be made by those who run the county before she runs for Supervisor.

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    1. Jessica Swanson? She is not my candidate for Supervisor. As far as I can tell the only party's interests she would represent as Supervisor is Karen Garza's and those other elitists who want to break the backs of Mason District's hard working middle class home owners.

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    2. So then Penny Gross? The person most responsible for the mess Mason has become?

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  3. Schools got 52% of the entire county budget (over $2 billion!?!) and the amount was INCREASED by $66 million dollars over last year and still they want MORE. What is Garza and Jessica Swanson smoking??

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    1. Pretty sure it's not e-cigarettes.

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    2. It's becoming clear that Jessica Swanson is banking on the "Anyone But Penny" vote. That may be a good reason to support Mollie Loeffler, but I doubt if most mainstream Democrats will welcome a political neophyte who is running a campaign that puts her at odds with her own party. Swanson became irrelevant the minute Loeffler announced her candidacy. All that's left now is for Penny to send Swanson packing so that the real election campaign can begin.

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    3. A Swanson Loeffler contest would be most welcome.

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    4. No - a Gross vs. Loeffler would be preferred. Who the is this Jessica Swanson person???

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  4. Jessica Swanson has yet to put forward any specific policies or plans as to how EXACTLY she would fully fund FCPS's budget wish list without raising taxes or cutting vital county services.

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  5. Back to the real issue of the need for increased funding for schools: overcrowding of schools by undocumented immigrants and no containment policies by Fairfax County, especially Supervisor Gross.

    Occupancy code enforcement is paramount in maintaining economically healthy communities in order to afford good schools and the necessary social services. Best practices are not followed in Mason District or Fairfax County in general.

    Also, the increasing tax burden on homeowners is unconscionable. It’s time for some user taxes like those employed in Arlington and Alexandria. It hasn't hurt their businesses and it affords homeowners a bit of a break.

    In Mason District we see little benefit from our taxpayer dollars. We have overcrowded schools, congested roadways, dilapidated buildings and litter strewn streets. Not every district in Fairfax County is treated as shabbily as ours and we all pay the same tax rate.

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    1. You complaints about Mason District's immigration policy is beyond stupid.

      Why don't you take a break from posting stupid comments and read recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions finding immigration law and enforcement is solely a federal government responsibilty.

      If you have a problem with immigration policy in this county take it up with the President, Virginia's U.S. Senators, or your Congressman.

      If you keep droning on about Penny being responsible for all the immigrants making their home in Mason District, you will have self-identified yourself.

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    2. Actually, your interpretation of my comments is beyond stupid. I am not complaining about immigration.

      The county and supervisor have a responsibility to maintain order and enforce the laws of the county and district regarding housing. They are not doing that and by virtue of this disregard they are encouraging slum living and crime.

      Why don't you give consideration to what the county can do instead of what it can't? Maybe you should study local law for this election.


      BTW, I wonder who you think I am. LOL. I certainly am not a candidate. I am a very concerned resident who truly believes it is time for a change in the Mason District supervisor’s office. In fact, there is room for change throughout Fairfax County, but Mason District is my home.

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    3. You are correct, the immigration issue is federal but the local FFX jurisdiction abdicates its responsibility back to the feds. And if you don't live in a toni neighborhood like Lake Barcroft or McClean you are stuck dealing with the all of the bad side affects of this immigration invasion that everyone seems to say that its someone else's problem to solve. Well guess what its ours, its our children's and its an irresponsible mess for tax payers.

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    4. All Mason District communities suffer from Fairfax County's and our Supervisor' Gross's inattention to enforcing housing codes.

      McLean is not in Mason District and in fact does not have any affordable dwelling units. Neither does Great Falls and others.

      There is not a shared responsibility among the Fairfax County Districts in housing, educating and providing social services for low income workers and immigrant families. Mason District, Mt. Vernon and Lee have undue burdens and our schools, businesses and communities are suffering from the neglect of our County and Supervisor Gross.

      BTW, Lake Barcroft children attend Bailey's, Belvedere and JEB Stuart Schools. These children endure the same overcrowded classrooms in the same schools as low income immigrant children. Get real. We are all in the same sinking boat. You are targeting the wrong people. Point your fingers at Bulova and Gross. They are the culprits.

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    5. Many of LB residents send their kids to private school. And here is another shocker. My housekeeper that cleans in LB has told me that many of the houses that she cleans there are multi-occupancy.......many! I guess that is how they pay for private school education from the premium bedroom rentals they get in LB! Bunch of hypocrites there.

      The boat is sinking because the NIMBYs are chasing all the investors from developing 7 corners and Baileys.

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  6. " It hasn't hurt their businesses and it affords homeowners a bit of a break. " How does further increasing the marginal level of taxation for everyone represent a break for homeowners? When added to the recent local sales tax increase, a "take out" tax effectively creates a virtually inescapable 10% sales tax on local residents for a universe of products and services. Creeping taxation has become so commonplace in Virginia that many residents overlook the fact that those alleged few pennies for so-called "user" taxes quickly add up to hundreds of dollars. So, no thanks. I'm not interested in the notion that a tax is any less objectionable because its based on consumption rather than assessed value.

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    1. A consumption tax is fairer because it spreads the taxation to renters, visitors...users. Homeowner backs are being broken by increasing taxation and taking the brunt for everything.

      A little shared responsibility would be a good thing.

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    2. Any landlord will tell you that renters indirectly pay their landlord's property taxes. My research indicates that, at most, visitors won't account for more than one-quarter of meal taxes. Gouging the locals in the name of collecting a few additional bucks from outsiders is no deal. And, finally, everyone is a "user". The City of Roanoke has a site named "Prepared Food and Beverage (Meals) Tax" which lists the plethora of ways this tax applies. It's so pervasive, there's virtually no way to avoid it. Check it out and then tell me why there's a "shared responsibility" to get fleeced.

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    3. Renters pay indirectly through their landlord's property taxes, BUT there are more people living in rentals per unit than in individually owned homes. And, the landlords only pay taxes on their square footage of land, not on the square footage of the dwellings built vertically on that land.

      Therefore, the indirect taxes do not pay enough to support the schools and social services needed by the growing population of low income workers and rental residents. So, encouraging the building of rental units only adds to our problems.

      Consumption taxes help take the burden off the homeowners and generate monies for needed services. I don't call that gouging, I call it shared responsibility.

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    4. Commercial real estate assessments are based in large part on the revenues the properties generate. In general, high-rise condominiums yield literally 100 times more taxes per acre than single-family dwellings. Google "“Land Use, Municipal Revenue Impacts, and Land Consumption” for the pertinent details. So, the relative scarcity of high occupancy dwellings in Fairfax versus single family homes contributes significantly to the property tax shortage that currently affects the County. Another factor is the high number of office vacancies. Until that's resolved, Fairfax will continue to suffer financially. Pyramiding taxes on consumable won't fix the problem. It will only partially mask it and deprive residents of even more disposable income.

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    5. Perhaps we need a per-occupant tax, along with property tax for dwellings.

      Does any county do this? There has got to be some way to recoup costs from too many renters cramming into one home.

      Perhaps landlords should have to pay business-rate property taxes on their homes, and pay a per-occupant tax.

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    6. The high number of office vacancies is simply poor land use planning. The build it and they will come philosophy didn't work. Now the county is adverse to approving office space in densely populated areas claiming too many vacancies in the county. This forces people onto the already congested roads to access goods and services.

      Densely populated areas need walkable and quick drives to business. Don't put more people on the streets than you have to.

      A per-occupant tax for rentals is interesting!!! That might help reduce the slumlord situation as well as raise money for schools and services.

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  7. The high number of office vacancies are not due to poor land use planning. The office vacancy rate is high because sequestion, imposed on the federal budget by the Republican majority in Congress, has shrunk the workforce of the federal contracting community in Northern Virginia. Fewer workers mean less office space needed. If and when the nonsensical, across-the-board sequestration cuts are eliminated, you will see the office vacancy rate shrink.

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  8. If, in fact, condos generate so much more taxes than single family homes, why are only apartments(close to 1,000 at the moment) being built at Baileys and another 6,000 proposed for 7 Corners.

    Obviously,there must be a continuing financial benefit for the apartment owners in spite of the overbuilding of
    apartments in the D.C area.

    Why not try some upscale condos for a change? Fairfax County could use the money and the owners might be more vested in the community. Isn't the condo market looking up at the moment.?,

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    1. No one said that condos generate more for the tax coffers. Apartment rentals owned by large real estate management companies are taxed at a different, higher rate than personal real property taxes.

      Condominium = individual owned apartments

      Apartment = Individually rented units

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  9. So, if the $14 million "shortfall" was added to the FCPS budget, Jessica Swanson would be happy? Or, if elected, will she seek tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars more for the county schools and increase the school portion of the county budget from 52% to 60% or 70%. It doesn't seem like $14 million more would pay for increases in many salaries.

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    1. The fact you're asking those questions demonstrates how superficial Jessica Swanson's campaign has been. She seems to assume that voters disaffected by Penny Gross will take it on faith that she's a better choice for supervisor. However, I'm hardly impressed by a political neophyte running a one issue campaign. Anonymous4/30/15, 4:46 PM has made a more comprehensive case in one paragraph for being wary of Jessica Swanson than Swanson has made in support of her candidacy. That's hardly reassuring considering that it's been almost two months since she began her campaign. So, at present, I have absolutely no incentive to support Jessica Swanson.

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  10. Despite the noise from novice candidate Jessica Swanson, the Board of Supervisors funded 99.8% of the school budget request.

    Here is how Chairman Sharon Bulova described it:

    Board of Supervisors Increases School Funding for Fifth Consecutive Year

    Schools Advertised Budget 99.8% Funded


    On April 28, the Board of Supervisors adopted the FY2016 Budget that increases funding for the Fairfax County Public Schools for the fifth consecutive year. Since FY2008, the Board of Supervisors has increased funding for the schools by $230 million.

    “Education is the Board of Supervisors’ highest priority and this budget reflects that,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said. “Our Board was able to fund 99.8% of the school’s advertised budget while not raising tax rates for homeowners, many of whom are still struggling to get back on their feet following the Great Recession.”

    The School Transfer for FY2016 amounts to almost 53% of Fairfax County’s General Fund Budget. “Public safety, human services, parks and libraries all receive a fraction of what FCPS does and these services are also critical to making Fairfax County one of the best places in the country to live, work, raise a family, and grow older comfortably,” Chairman Bulova said.

    Strong advocacy on the part of the Board of Supervisors also resulted in an increase in state funding for FCPS.

    “Fairfax County worked hard this year to advocate for a larger share of state funding for our Schools. We were successful in receiving $9.9 million more than anticipated through the state budget. With these funds, FCPS is within $4.1 million of their total $2.6 billion Advertised Budget, a gap of just 0.16%,” Chairman Bulova said.

    The FY2016 budget allocates $2.01 billion to FCPS Schools, an increase of $66.7 million (+3.43%) from FY2015. The total FCPS Advertised Budget, comprised of the County Transfer, state funding and federal funding, totals $2.6 billion. Fairfax County’s Direct General Fund Budget, services and programs, excluding the School Transfer is $1.81 billion. This year the General County disbursements increased by only 2.06%, less than the increase in the School Transfer.

    The Fairfax County School Board will decide on its priorities for the coming school year when they adopt their budget on May 21. The Board of Supervisors does not have line item authority over the FCPS budget. According to the Constitution of Virginia, that responsibility lies with the elected School Board members who set the funding priorities for the schools, including teacher salaries.

    “Within their $2.6 billion budget, our partners at the School Board now have the responsibility to meet our common goal of having the best public education system in the country,” Chairman Bulova said.

    For more information on the FY2016 Fairfax County budget, visit: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/
    For more information on the FY2016 FCPS budget, visit: http://www.fcps.edu/news/fy2016.shtml

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    1. So....Jessica is running her 100% negative, no solutions campaign about .02% of the school budget? Makes sense -- she is about .02% qualified to run for office.

      I was thinking she may be putting herself in a position to run for something in the future, but her meek effort in this race is basically disqualifying.

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  11. To Anon 4/30/15, 1:35 PM

    Fact Check: Sequestration was Obama's idea. When he wanted out he would not negotiate budget cuts with the Republicans. Ultimately, he successfully put a spin on it blaming the Republicans. The media bit the bait hook, line and sinker. Apparently you did, too.

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  12. To Anon 4/30/15, 9:41 AM

    Regarding your suggestion for an occupancy tax. Florida has one that includes rentals in many categories.

    http://dor.myflorida.com/Forms_library/current/gt800034.pdf

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  13. The BOS could authorize a referendum and let the voters decide if they want a special tax, e.g. meals tax, hotel occupancy tax, etc,revenues being designated for a particular use. .

    It's been done before, however, it takes guts on the part of the Board.

    It also sets up a battle between the advocates of the beneficiary of the tax and those impacted., e.g. restaurants, as well as those who hate taxes of any kind, yet want the benefits..The latter is a vocal group who vote..

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    1. Nibbling away at the edges of residents' disposable income with a meals tax merely sets the stage for the next special tax. That's because, sooner or later, that extra money runs out due to the inevitably escalating demands for more programs by spendthrifts who see that revenue as a windfall. The BOS has not equalized property tax rates over the past two years even though assessments have increased substantially. My taxes will have increased by at least 22% during the last three years. That's substantially greater than the percentage increase for any goods or services I'm familiar with. So, the real question is whether the BOS intends to provide any form of tax relief to homeowners in the near future. If not, then a restaurant tax would merely amount to tax gouging.

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  14. Now let's see how the billion dollars are spent.
    I think we need to remind ourselves that advocacy on behalf of Mason District -at the school board-depends on our School Board Representative who is not Penny Grossl.. Currently it is Sandy Evans.
    How much of the pie we get, our educational attainments are the responsibility of the school board member. She/He is the one who represents our interests.

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  15. Since Jessica Swanson works for the DC public schools, not Fairfax public schools, it is fair to ask her: Do you think DC schools are better than Fairfax County schools?

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    1. I'm not supporting Jessica, but I wouldn't blame her for laughing out loud if you asked her that question. It's utterly meaningless.

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  16. The issue is the struggling schools in Mason District, not Jessica Swanson..

    Have you been to Glen Forest recently and seen the children in trailers?

    The much touted Upper Baileys will soon be at capacity.

    What about schools on probation?

    Attacking Jessica is a Penny ploy that doesn't belong in a productive conversation of the discouraging state of our schools. In fact, I applaud Jessica for focusing on a crucial and neglected topic.

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    1. Being skeptical about Jessica Swanson isn't synonymous with being a Penny supporter. Jessica has yet to present anything resembling a campaign platform. According to her website, she's been meeting with residents, but there's no detailed description of what's been discussed. So, whatever Jessica is specifically focusing on remains a mystery to me.

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