When Igor Stravinsky composed “The Rite of Spring” in 1913, the public reaction was deemed scandalous by some, with its pagan theme and sometimes dissonant orchestration. Today, of course, the work is hailed as a classic. In Fairfax County, the annual rite of spring – public hearings about the budget – is not so melodic, although in some years, the arts community has presented brief live musical performances to support budget requests.
Three days and nights of budget public hearings last week elicited about 150 speakers, far fewer than my first budget hearing in 1996, when more than 800 speakers signed up to speak. That was the year the county executive presented a budget based on a 17-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. Ultimately, the Board voted to increase the rate by seven cents and, on my motion, fired the county executive a few months later. No such drama this year, but the pleas were eerily similar: give more money to the schools; don’t give more money to the schools. Raise my taxes; don’t raise my taxes. Save the programs I use; cut the ones I don’t use. Advocacy is alive and well in Fairfax County, and public hearings are useful in determining needs for new or expanded programs that serve county residents. The Board will mark up the proposed budget on Tuesday, and adopt a revised FY 2022 budget on May 4. The new budget year begins on July 1, 2021.
Last week, I wrote about the ACCA Child Development Center (CDC), which was featured in a long New York Times article about the challenges and costs of childcare, especially during the pandemic. As I mentioned, the Times article elicited a call from the White House to Maria-Isabel Ballivian, center director. But there’s more to the story. The call from the White House morphed into an invitation for Isabel to meet with President Biden as he was about to launch his childcare funding initiative. (Northern Virginia residents and programs often provide easy backdrops for White House announcements, and this one was perfect.) Isabel traveled to the White House on Thursday to speak at the launch and, ultimately, introduced Vice President Kamala Harris who launched the initiative when the President was called away unexpectedly. Isabel told me it really didn’t matter. She was thrilled to appear with the Vice President, and delighted to highlight the need for affordable, high quality childcare, not just in Annandale and Mason District, but around the nation. Well done, Isabel!
The ACCA CDC began in 1967, and was followed closely by the Seven Corners Children’s Center (SCCC), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of service this year. SCCC provides childcare services to low- and middle-income families, predominantely in the Seven Corners multi-family housing developments. Many of these families can afford to pay only a portion of the tuition, so the center receives tuition subsidy funding from Fairfax County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and federal programs. During the pandemic, SCCC stayed open, even though only one-third of the enrollment levels were possible, and all staff salaries and benefits were maintained. SCCC has been accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and has partnerships with a number of churches and other organizations. Both SCCC and the ACCA CDC accept tax-deductible donations, and can be reached at sevencornerschildrenscenter.org and ACCAcares.org. Perhaps supporting quality and affordable childcare via donations should be another rite of spring.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]