Budget, Part V: Again? Yes. The discussion about the County Executive’s proposed FY 2017 county budget continues, in preparation for the Board’s public hearings on April 5, 6, and 7, and the Board’s eventual adoption of the amended budget, scheduled for April 26. During this same time, the Board of Supervisors is continuing its review of the county’s Lines of Business (LOBs), examining all 390 LOBs in presentations by county staff, a task now extended through May. Weather, and longer than anticipated interrogations by Board members, forced a number of department and agency heads to reschedule their presentations.
The LOBs review provides important and relevant information to decisions-makers, but its most valuable benefit will be in the development of budgets next year and in future years, since development of the FY2017 budget already had been completed by the time the LOBs review began. LOBs is an excellent mechanism to help new Board members learn about county services, and it reminds experienced members about the variety of local services we enjoy as Fairfax County residents. Among them are outstanding public schools, premier public safety services, parks, libraries, programs for every age – from the tiniest to the eldest, award-winning wastewater treatment facilities, environmentally friendly stormwater and solid waste programs, and a plethora of services for our neediest residents, to help them become fully participating members of our community.
All departments were directed to provide metrics in their presentations, and some of those metrics reflected a huge increase in customer demand. For instance, the Department of Public Safety Communications, or the 9-1-1 Center, handled 984,518 calls during Fiscal Year 2015. The 9-1-1 call taker provided emergency medical dispatch/pre-arrival instructions more than 64,000 times, including 136 childbirth instructions and 1616 cardiac event instructions. Suicide intervention strategies were applied more than 1000 times. Those are lives saved; no doubt about it! The LOBs review also explained that the Fairfax County Circuit Court is the largest in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with more than 25,000 new civil and criminal cases filed each year. The Clerk of the Court records more than 150,000 land transactions every year, and more than 6000 marriage licenses were issued last year, up 21 percent in five years. As Court Clerk John Frey noted, love wins by double digits! Only 3400 divorce cases were filed last year.
This year’s LOBs review also brings a renewed focus on mental health issues. The new Diversion First program already is reaping rewards, as some people who previously may have been taken directly to jail for lower risk behavioral health situations, now are taken to the Merrifield Center for initial diagnosis and treatment, avoiding incarceration altogether. Fairfax County’s Adult Detention Center, unfortunately, remains the largest mental health facility in the county, but that situation is changing. With the appropriate interventions by first responders, treatment is effective, and people do recover. Investments in such programs now will pay multiple dividends in the future, saving taxpayer dollars and, the best outcome of all – returning people to their families and community with a renewed opportunity for a healthy, successful life. The LOBs presentations to the Board of Supervisors are available online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/budget/2016-Lines-of-Business.htm
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]