The comprehensive effect of County Executive Ed Long’s proposed FY18 budget plan on county services hasn’t sunk in yet, but a closer look at recommended reductions gives some sense of the breadth of services provided by the largest county government in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The small stuff – reducing printing of reports, including future proposed budgets and staff reports for land use cases, in favor of posting on-line; cutting postage expenses, and eliminating vacant positions – probably has de minimus impact overall.
Some of the larger reductions, however, are worth mentioning. Funding for emergency housing placements in motels, considered “Last Resort Housing,” would decrease by $200,000. While the trend in emergency motel placements has been going down, reducing the funding also reduces resources to respond to demands for emergency family shelter placements. Nearly $500,000 in Fire and Rescue Department activities would be saved by restructuring training and recertification opportunities to on-duty times, eliminating the need for overtime and backfilling of positions. Therapeutic day treatment for youth with mental health or substance abuse disorders would be eliminated, saving $460,000, and relying on community-based resources to provide alternative care. The program served 82 youth in FY16. Likewise, eliminating the Community Readiness and Support Program, which served 42 adults in FY16, will save $373,303. Transitioning to a private management company for the Lewisville senior housing facility will save $100,000, without affecting the residents who live there.
Not all of Mr. Long’s proposals are reductions. His budget also recommends increasing parking fees at the Massey/Courthouse Complex Visitor Garage from $2 an hour to $2.50 an hour, for a maximum of $12.50 per day. If you’ve ever parked at a downtown D.C. garage, where fees range from $10 per hour to $30 or more per day, you know that’s a bargain! Probably missed, but very appropriate for the Valentine’s Day budget release, Mr. Long proposes implementing a $100 hourly fee for rental of the historic 1799 Courtroom at the Historic Courthouse in Fairfax. The historic charm and close proximity to the Clerk’s Office Marriage License counter makes the location ideal for small weddings. And wedding guests can park at the above-mentioned visitor garage, for just a slight increase in the fee!
At Tuesday budget committee meetings during the next two months, discussions will center on school funding, which is proposed to receive 52.8 percent, or $2.167 Billion, as a transfer from the General Fund in FY18, and human services needs. Mr. Long’s budget does not fund the employee compensation plan’s annual Market Rate Adjustment (MRA), so more discussion is anticipated there, too. Those discussions will be covered in future columns.
On a brighter note, the Art at the Mason District Governmental Center program features quilts, both large and small, by Linda Cooper of Burke, Virginia. Perhaps my favorite is a bright red peddler’s wagon, “A Quilter’s Caravan,” vaguely reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz set piece. Some of the quilts have “kinetic” features built in, creating a 3-D effect. Although there’s sure to be a favorite, the quilts are not for sale. They will be on display through March, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, at 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]