Fairfax County Supervisors Agree on Budget With $1.09 Tax Rate

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors “marked up” their budget for FIscal Year 2011 today, having settled on a real estate tax rate of $1.09 per $100 of assessed valuation, or a five cent increase over this year’s rate. For the average homeowner, the increase is more than offset by a drop in assessed values, such that there will be a net reduction in the tax bill of $26.93. The budget also establishes a $33 per vehicle registration license fee. The final adoption of the budget will occur next Tuesday, April 27.

The FY 2011 plan marked up by the board provides for a balanced budget based on a General Fund Revenue reduction of 2.31 percent from the FY 2010 Adopted Budget Plan. General Fund Disbursements are projected to total $3.31 billion, a decrease of $92.2 million or 2.71 percent from the FY 2010 Revised Budget Plan. Excluding adjustments in the current fiscal year, the actual decrease from the FY 2010 level is $22.3 million or 0.67 percent from the FY 2010 Adopted Budget Plan.

The deep economic recession, which officially began in December 2007, continues to present significant challenges to the county in the face of declining revenues coupled with an increased demand for services. Families and individuals continue to turn to the county for help with food stamps, utility assistance, rent and housing assistance and finding jobs. Consequently, the Board of Supervisors opted to balance the FY 2011 Budget using a combination of revenue enhancements, agency expenditure reductions, and maintaining the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) transfer at the county executive’s recommended level. The FY 2011 school transfer for operations totals $1.61 billion, which represents a 1 percent decrease from the FY 2010 transfer level.

However, the approved transfer level, in combination with the impact of full state funding of the positive Local Composite Index formula adjustment, which gained the county $61 million, fully funds the School Board’s operating request and enables the restoration of band and music and language immersion programs.The transfer also provides the school system with a $45 million balance for future Virginia Retirement System requirements.

The FY 2011 marked-up budget proposal includes an increase to the stormwater services fee from $0.01 to $0.015 per $100 assessed value (in addition to the real estate tax rate of $1.09 per $100 of assessed value). Based on these two tax rate adjustments, the net reduction for the average homeowner’s tax bill is $26.93.

The sewer service charge increases by 77 cents per 1,000 gallons, from $4.50 to $5.27. This fee increase addresses aging sewer infrastructure and ensures compliance with state and federal clean water and environmental mandates. Notwithstanding this increase, the county’s sewer service charge remain among the lowest in the region.

As a result of the board’s actions, the net change in positions in FY 2011 is a decrease of 176 positions from FY 2010. Of the net 284 positions proposed for reduction in theFY 2011 Advertised Budget Plan, the board restored 107 positions and added funding for a new position to the Office of the Financial and Program Auditor. The restorations include nine positions for human services; 28 positions for the Fire and Rescue Department; 38 positions for the Police Department (including 26 School Resource Officers for middle schools); and 27 positions for parks and libraries, including 10 positions to partially restore hours at regional libraries and 12 positions for parks ground maintenance.  In addition, this budget restores all proposed Fairfax Connector route reductions.

The budget features many reorganizations that will help reduce the cost of providing services and will improve the delivery of services. Agencies and departments impacted include Community and Recreation Services, Department of Systems Management for Human Services, Senior Services, Community Services Board, Systems of Care, Code Enforcement, Clerk to the Board and Planning Commission.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova noted that this budget was one of the most challenging ever experienced in Fairfax County. “The process of closing this shortfall has been one of impressive community engagement, creativity and collaboration among county staff and our non-profit partners,” she said.

Bulova attributes the successful budget process to collaborative input and community dialogue, which included more than 20 town meetings and forums in spring 2010 and hundreds of speakers at this year’s public hearings.

Bulova also noted a 6 percent decline in residential property values and an 18 percent drop in commercial property values. In addition, the challenge of home foreclosures still resonates, affecting more than 700 homes in the county in March 2010 alone. Consequently, county officials believe that based on current market trends, it appears that real estate assessments will realize further negative growth in FY 2012 and that overall county revenue will most likely decline in FY 2012.

The total county transfer to support School Operating and Debt Service is $1.77 billion or 53.5 percent of total county disbursements. The Board of Supervisors also maintains the school bond sales at $155 million per year, and includes referenda for FCPS in the amount of $240 million each in fall 2011 and fall 2013 and Metro Matters for $120 million in fall 2010 with other referenda on hold.

The board also completely funded the Priority 1 requirements of the Affordable Housing Blueprint through the use of $4 million in available operating revenues from Wedgewood to fund the Bridging Affordability portion of the blueprint and the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) recommendation for long-term financing for the capital projects at Lincolnia, North Hill and Lewinsville.