Fairfax County’s FY 2013 budget is now a reality. The Board of Supervisors spent the past two months tearing apart County Executive Tony Griffin’s proposed budget (his last as he began his long-planned retirement on April 25), making adjustments and, ultimately, adopting the budget by a vote of 8 to 2. The Board adopted a tax rate of $1.075 for $100 valuation, and a stormwater tax rate of 2 cents for an overall total rate of $1.095, about the same as last year.
In its deliberations, the Board considered the slowly increasing economic recovery, indicated by land use applications making their way through the county system, strengthened commercial leasing, and home sales that are trending upward. In Mason District generally, home values reflected small changes, in a 5 percent range, up or down, so that residential real estate tax bills should be fairly steady compared to last year. The School Transfer of $1.85 Billion is maintained at the advertised rate of 4.5 percent above the level of FY 2012. Support for schools is more than half of the total county budget, representing an investment now and for the future. Funding also is provided to restore some hours at regional and community libraries.
The adopted budget reinstates compensation adjustments for county employees, whose salaries and wages have been frozen for three budget cycles. Effective July 1, county employees will receive a 2.18 percent Market Rate Adjustment, and an additional 2.5 percent adjustment for non-public safety personnel is planned for January 2013. Longevity steps and merit increments will be reinstated for public safety personnel on their FY 2013 anniversary dates. The Board also maintained its commitment to the defined benefit structure of the county’s retirement system, but adjusted retirement ages and other criteria for new hires, effective July 1.
As chairman of both the Personnel Committee and the Environment Committee, the proposal to adjust compensation via a half-cent increase in the tax rate, but shave half-a-cent from the proposed 2.5 cent stormwater tax, put me into a bit of a quandary. I wanted to address compensation for our county employees, who strive to provide excellent service to our constituents every day, but I also am very aware of the increasing federal and state requirements for stormwater infrastructure, which falls to localities to pay for and implement. However, since I do not believe that compromise is a dirty word, I voted for the package, but I did lay down a marker for next year: stormwater needs must be addressed in coming years, and it will not be cheap. We cannot continue to “raid” stormwater funds for non-environmental projects. The clock is ticking on cleaning up our local streams and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The adopted budget and Budget Guidance document approved by the Board can be viewed at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb.
Congratulations to the organizers and volunteers of the Culmore Cleanup! Nearly 400 volunteers showed up at the Woodrow Wilson Library on a cold, damp Saturday morning to pick up litter along local roadways in Bailey’s Crossroads. Thanks to the volunteers, and the support of local businesses and service clubs, our community is a little cleaner, and our civic engagement a little stronger.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]