Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpA few remnants of the “Snowzilla” blizzard remain in parking lots and at intersections, but the discussion about the storm and its aftermath still dominates conversations. At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairman Sharon Bulova announced plans for a “snow summit,” to be held on Tuesday, March 1, during the regular board meeting. Invited participants will include the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the state agency responsible for road maintenance, including plowing, in Fairfax County, county agencies, schools, and the United States Postal Service. Board members fielded many complaints and requests for service during the blizzard, and will look at trends and problems in their districts for discussion at the summit. County residents may submit their comments to their magisterial district supervisor, or to chairman@fairfaxcounty.gov, for inclusion in the summit.

During the blizzard and its aftermath, Fairfax County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and related agencies (especially 911 call-takers) worked around the clock, fielding emergency calls for service, dispatching police and fire and rescue personnel, and clearing snow at county facilities. While others were snowed in, 250 county employees worked 12 hour shifts, accounting for 13,500 hours, during the six-day EOC activation. Every police station and firehouse had to be plowed and shoveled, often several times, so that first responders could reach emergencies. Transit facilities, county health centers and 24-hour shelters, wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations had to be fully operational and accessible, despite the weather. Many workers slept at the EOC more than one night, evoking memories of childhood camp overnights, but without mosquitos and s’mores!
Almost lost in the flurry of information during the snow emergency was the very good news that Fairfax County’s triple-A bond rating was reaffirmed by all three national bond rating agencies – Moody’s Investor Service, Standard & Poor, and Fitch Ratings. Only 40 counties in the nation enjoy a triple-A rating, which Fairfax County has held for more than 30 years. In addition, Moody’s Investor Service revised the county’s economic outlook from “negative” to “stable,” a reflection of the Board’s strengthened comprehensive fiscal policies, a large and diverse tax base, and a reasonable debt burden. The triple-A rating has saved taxpayers an estimated $700 million in interest on bond and refunding sales over time.

The county’s most recent bond sale, on January 26, generated $155 million for schools, $43 million for transportation improvements, and $20 million for parks. County voters approved these bond projects in elections from 2006 to 2012. Favorable interest rates resulted in savings of $12 million. Voter-approved General Obligation bonds provide the funding that enables local governments to acquire, build, and renovate public facilities, such as schools, libraries, parks, police and fire stations, which are needed and demanded by taxpayers. Akin to a mortgage, bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the county, which is a major facet of the triple-A rating.


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