Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News from Greater Falls Church




Round three of Fairfax County’s Lines of Business (LOBs) review took an entire day Monday, as the Board of Supervisors heard presentations from the Health Department, the Park Authority, and various Human Services agencies in preparation for the FY 2010 county budget process.

All county agencies were directed by County Executive Anthony H. Griffin to provide an overview of what they do, why they do it, and what options they identified for 15 percent reductions. From mid-September through mid-December, agency heads will present to the Board their estimations of where they can cut, and the effect to services.

Many Health Department activities are mandated, either by Fairfax County Code or the Code of Virginia. The Department was established in April 1917 to combat communicable disease (an Influenza Epidemic was on the rise at the time), and its mission has expanded to include environmental health, emergency preparedness, and patient care services through the community health care network. Most of Monday’s discussion centered on the option that would eliminate clinic room aides from the school health programs, a savings of nearly $4.5 million per year, affecting 192 employees. The clinic room aide is the primary source of care for sick or injured students, and administers routine and emergency medications to students, but is not part of the county’s budget transfer to schools. In response to a question, Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Health Department director, said that school staff would have to assume clinic duties, should this cut be taken. To maintain the clinic room aide program, but still find $4.5 million in savings, the Adult Day Health Care programs at six senior centers would have to be abolished.

About four hours of the day’s presentations centered around human services. All told, about 110 positions and $20 million were identified for cuts, including services for victims of domestic violence, school-aged child care (SACC), and Head Start programs. Homeless shelter services and reducing the number of days lunch is served at senior centers from five days a week to four also were on the options list. The human services options were perhaps unkindest of all – so far – since they hit the most at-risk people in our community – small children, the aged, the homeless, and victims of crime.

Finally, John Dargle, new director of the Fairfax County Park Authority, told Board members that Fairfax County residents love their parks, and 79 percent of house-holds consider the natural and cultural resources of our parks as very important to their quality of life. Fairfax County parks encompass more than 24,000 acres of land, with 17 million annual visitors. Nearly all park services are supported by the county’s General Fund; only golf courses, RECenters (including classes and camps), and athletic fields are dependent on fees and partnerships. Nonetheless, Director Dargle identified 33 positions and $4 million in potential reductions, including park maintenance for special events, staff support for the very popular free summer concerts throughout the county, Porta-Jons on athletic fields, landscape services and contract mowing. Some of these suggestions were met with great skepticism by Board members, even an occasional “over my dead body” comment was overheard.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, no decisions have been made about any of the reduction options offered by department heads. The LOBs review, which continues through December 15, provides a close look at all the services provided by county government as we face a very difficult budget cycle for FY 2010. As the recommenda-tions pile up, however, the enormity of the decision-making process will become more clear (and painful), and will need thoughtful insight from the community about what services are critical and valued.