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Letter to the Editor: County should consider these benchmarks

Editor:

Our Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors was elected primarily on a call for economic and educational development. However, we have not heard real plans for change or how it will be measured. This is not a novice board – where has the economic development been over the last 30 years? Today, let me suggest a few benchmarks for consideration. A benchmark is a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed. Changes from these benchmarks will help us measure our economic and educational progress.

First, an ideal economic benchmark is the county business tax-base for machinery and tools. Today it totals $96 million – about $2,200 per resident. By comparison, Rockingham and Frederick counties have twice the tax-base per person. Second, the tax-base for automobiles in the county would be another natural benchmark to show that residents are willing and able to upgrade their vehicles.

Third, all agree that good schools are essential for economic development. Here are some school benchmarks based on the newly released 2017 report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It is estimated in the county that almost 1 in 4 cannot read at a basic level and only about one third are proficient readers. The same is estimated for math with almost 1 in 4 below basic math performance. In addition, a leading real estate website ranks our three high schools on a scale of 1-10 accordingly: Central – 6, Stonewall Jackson – 5, and Strasburg – 4.

Finally, the poverty level is a key indicator of economic health. For the county, over 1 in 10 are considered poor, and 1 in 4 residents are enrolled in a social service program. Almost half of our children qualify for subsidized school lunches. This year the county spent $64 million on programs for the poor with the schools estimated to have spent an additional $27 million.

These are only a few obvious benchmarks; there are others. I hope the county Board of Supervisors will share their vision for our county’s economic health and the benchmarks they choose to use whereby we may judge our progress and the board’s performance.

Dr. Stephen Curtis, Edinburg

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