Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News from Greater Falls Church

The LOBs examination is finished! Fairfax County’s Lines of Business exercise was completed on Monday with County Executive Anthony Griffin and staff.

The good news about maintaining our AAA bond rating was tempered with the bad news of decreasing revenue forecasts for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2009.

Fairfax County is one of less than 30 jurisdictions nationwide that maintains a AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch. The AAA bond rating has saved county taxpayers more than $325 million in interest payments since the late 1970s. County staff noted that, in meetings last week with all three rating houses, Fairfax County received high marks for its award-winning Ten Principles of Sound Financial Management, adopted many years ago and renewed with every budget adoption, and for its LOBs review and multi-meeting Community Dialogue process to inform and educate residents who, in turn, identified their budget priorities for county services.

Real estate assessments are being completed on most properties now, for release in late February, and the overall drop in residential real estate is expected to be about 14 percent. Auto sales dropped drastically, with a corresponding decrease in anticipated sales tax. The holiday sales tax figures will not be available until mid-February, but they are expected to be negative compared to last year’s figures. The announced furlough of all county employees on January 2 will be accompanied by a number of other reductions to this year’s remaining budget, including adjusting temperature settings by 3 degrees in all county facilities. Warm sox and sweaters should be on everyone’s holiday lists!

The Thomas Jefferson “TJ” Library on Route 50 will close for renovations at 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 3. The library will re-open in temporary quarters in early March. The temporary site will be just a few blocks away on the grounds of St. Philip Catholic Church, 7500 St. Philips’ Court, behind Falls Church High School, near the intersection of Camp Alger Avenue and Holly Hill Drive. The “TJ” Library was built in 1962; renovations are expected to take a minimum of 18 months, funded by a Library Bond referendum approved by the voters in 2004.

The Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments Annual Meeting was held last week at the National Press Club. In his keynote address to local elected officials, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steven Pearlstein asked the question “How did we get into this (economic) situation?” The answer, he said, was multi-pronged: America lived beyond its means, spent more than it saved, bought more than it produced – and on credit! We thought we were wealthier than we were, and that’s not sustainable, he said. Pearlstein suggested that governments need to invest in some infrastructure, but not all, he was careful to say. Education investments, from early childhood to colleges, were recommended, and computerized health records would be a good investment, too. Pearlstein said he also expected to see a lot of young people coming to Washington in the next few years, energized by the Obama campaign, not unlike the influx of young people to public service during the Kennedy years.

Retiring Virginia Representative Tom Davis and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin were honored with COG’s highest honor, the Elizabeth and David Scull Metropolitan Public Service Award. Davis and Cardin were highlighted for their work on the $1.5 billion Metro funding bill, which finally passed both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by President Bush. Previous Scull awardees from Virginia include Arlington County Councilmember Jay Fisette (2007), former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley (2002), and Gerry Hyland (1996), Kate Hanley (1999), Gerry Connolly (2000), and Penny Gross (2003), all from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov