The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors finalized the FY 2011 budget package at its mark-up meeting on Tuesday, April 20. The audience in the Board Auditorium was much smaller than the crowd that attended the pre-mark-up budget committee meeting the previous Friday. Board Chairman Sharon Bulova, who also heads the board’s Budget Committee, outlined proposed restorations and budget guidelines in preparation for formal adoption of the revised budget on April 27.
The revised budget proposal is based on the County Executive’s recommended tax rate of $1.09. Although the Board advertised a higher rate of $1.12 per hundred dollar valuation, Chairman Bulova said that a prudent budget at $1.09 means that the average Fairfax County taxpayer will see his/her overall tax bill decline by almost $50. The stormwater tax and sewer fund rates will help Fairfax County meet its regulatory requirements for cleaning up local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay under the federal Clean Water Act.
The transfer to the schools remains at $1.6 billion, slightly more than 53 percent of the total county budget, and will allow the school system to fully fund its FY 2011 requested budget, including the restoration of music, band, and language immersion programs. Unknown at present is the effect that the School Board’s proposed testing and athletic fees might have on youth participation in both academic and sports pursuits, and the budget guidelines include a request that the School Board reconsider implementation of both fees, which may be detrimental especially to lower income students and their families who live in Mason District. The mark-up session also saw a vigorous discussion about the Superintendent’s proposed cuts to the EXCEL, FOCUS, and Title 1 programs at our most challenged schools across the county.
Other restorations of cuts in the final package include: Tuesday evening hours at regional libraries; grounds maintenance and restroom facilities at local parks, including Mason District Park; middle school resource officers; some Community Services Board programs; law clerks at the courthouse; and Basic Life Support ambulance services. Proposed CONNECTOR bus route reductions, which affect some magisterial districts, will be restored. The budget fully funds the Priority 1 requirements of the Affordable Housing Blueprint, including renovation plans for the Lincolnia Assisted Living Center in Mason District.
The mark-up package was adopted by a vote of 7 to 3 (all three Republicans voted “nay”). When adopted in its final form on April 27, the FY 2011 budget will take effect on July 1, 2010. Real estate tax notices, which will include the stormwater tax, will be mailed later this spring. New sewer fees will appear on local water bills later in the year, and separate vehicle registration fee notices will be sent to registered owners in the fall. No decal will be required.
Budget decisions are never easy, and this year’s challenge was to find the balance between needed services and available revenues. The budget will continue to support our excellent public school system, maintain public safety, provide a safety net for those less fortunate, and meet environmental and transportation requirements as core elements in our budget agenda. Targeting spending requirements and reducing county expenditures, strategically using reserves, and utilizing reasonable revenue enhancements, will balance the budget, eliminate any deficit, and maintain a quality of life all can enjoy.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org