Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Penny Gross

Fairfax County’s annual budget deliberations are about to conclude, with budget mark-up completed, and the final vote to adopt the FY 2020 budget scheduled for next Tuesday. Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, chairman of the Board’s Budget Committee, skillfully navigated the financial shoals, working with board members to address specific issues while maintaining the tax rate at $1.15 per $100 assessed valuation. For the second consecutive year, the budget includes full funding of the Fairfax County Public Schools’ operating request — $2.3 billion or 52.8 percent of the budget.

Updated revenue projections, as well as possible savings from the final approved Metro budget, resulted in the ability to increase county employee wages from the one percent recommended by the County Executive, to 2.1 percent. As the Board’s Personnel Committee chairman, I worked with Jeff on the increase and was glad that we could recognize employees for the outstanding service they provide to Fairfax County residents. The MRA adjustment also increases the county’s Living Wage, currently $14.83 per hour, to $15.14 per hour.

The final budget package also adds $5 million more to the county’s Housing Blueprint, a longtime plan that directs affordable housing policies and resources to serving those with greatest need. With the additional $5 million, the total FY 2020 budget for affordable housing from all sources, including federal funds, is $140 million. Especially needed are low to moderate income units close to transit or employment centers. In budget guidance (the narrative document that outlines Board budget goals for the next year or two), the County Executive is directed to develop a package of innovative land use policies to further facilitate the development affordable housing beyond the adopted goal of 5000 units across the next 15 years.

The police department’s body-worn camera pilot program is not funded as a regular part of the FY 2020 budget, but the Board will receive an analysis update from American University which was contracted to evaluate the program. If a decision is made to implement body-worn cameras as a permanent program, there is $5.57 million set aside to establish a countywide program this year, with any recurring funding requirements to be included in the FY 2021 budget. The Board also has asked for options to increase library hours in the next budget, surely a popular choice for many library users. The budget documents, including budget guidance and the multitude of budget questions asked by Board members, is available on line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/budget. The FY 2020 budget takes effect on July 1, 2019.

Congratulations to Mason District resident Kevin Holland, who received Volunteer Fairfax’s Lifetime Achievement Award on April 24! Kevin is a founding member of the Friends of Hidden Oaks Nature Center (FOHONC), and was instrumental in saving the center from closure (because of budget cuts) years ago. Hidden Oaks, at 7701 Royce Street in Annandale, is a hidden gem in Mason District, and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October.

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