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Town of Vienna Pushes to Have School Closure Authority Shifted Away from School Boards

As the Town of Vienna puts together its legislative agenda for the upcoming session in Richmond, the proposed policies are a mix of addressing the new crises and trying to make progress on old issues.

One of the largest pieces of new policy proposed is eliminating penalties for late payments for those who lost their income during the pandemic.

According to the legislative agenda, the town is requesting:

Waiver of penalties and interest; refunds; taxpayers suffering job loss or business closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waives penalties and interest for six months for taxpayers who suffered a job loss, business closure, or reduction in business operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The waivers apply to sales and use taxes and all local taxes that were due during a period in which the job loss, closure, or reduction in operations occurred and income taxes for such taxpayers for taxable year 2019. For a taxpayer who made penalty and interest payments prior to the effective date of the act, the Department of Taxation or his locality shall refund such payments to the taxpayer.

Other proposals raised during the discussion included a proposal from Councilmember Nisha Patel to put some of the school reopening planning in the hands of local government rather than solely for the school board.

Proposed legislation that would incorporate a system of checks and balances in Virginia so that school closings are not only determined by the school board. Local government should have a say in school closures during emergencies so that the power not only resides into the teachers union and school board.

The change would force school board to engage with local governments when making decisions about major school closures.

“As many of you all will remember, when the local schools were closed it was done on short notice without any notice to the Town of Vienna or other local governments,” said Town Attorney Steve Briglia. “Councilmember Patel has suggested that when there’s such a major school closing, that it’s not just closed by the school board… The fact that there was no notice or public discussion was of concern.”

One of the returning issues has been a push from localities to try to overturn a requirement for local governments to publish notices in newspapers rather than on their own websites or other sources. The proposed change has been fought by the Virginia Press Association, but Briglia said every time the Town of Vienna needs to run a notice it costs around $500, and they sometimes have to run twice.

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