The public hearings about the proposed FY 2024 county budget are history; now the Board of Supervisors will make adjustments to the County Executive’s proposals, with eventual adoption of the budget in early May. Last week, nearly 150 people spoke or presented video testimony during three afternoons, a far cry from the 800 speakers who signed up for the FY 1997 budget. That was my first budget as Mason District Supervisor, and the County Executive at the time had recommended a 17-cent increase in the real estate tax rate! The Board added a full Saturday hearing to accommodate the extraordinary number of speakers. I remembered that a few of the speakers last week also had testified in 1997.
Speaker comments focused on a few common themes: decrease the tax rate, increase compensation for teachers and county employees, invest more in schools, parks, and libraries. Some speakers wanted both tax cuts and pay increases. One speaker let his violin do the talking, with a beautiful rendition of a Bach composition on behalf of ArtsFairfax. There also were pointed comments about the Board’s recent action to increase salaries for the next Board of Supervisors. Since Virginia law permits Boards of Supervisors to increase salaries only for the next board, and only between January 1 and April 15 of an election year, the system is set up to elicit howls, regardless of the amount of the increase. The Board’s action was only the fourth time, since 1991, that board member salaries were increased, and maintains Fairfax County Board salaries as the lowest of the four major jurisdictions (District of Columbia, Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties in Maryland) in the region.
Now the Board, under the leadership of Chairman Jeff McKay, who also chairs the Board’s budget committee, will spend the next couple of weeks making adjustments to the budget, including compensation increases, and determining the tax rate to fund county services in the coming year. Under Virginia law, county budgets must be balanced; counties cannot run a deficit like the federal government does. An unanticipated wrinkle in budget planning this year is the incomplete state budget. The General Assembly passed a “skinny budget” but disagreed on many other budget decisions, leaving localities without assurance of how additional state funds will be allocated. Whether the House and Senate conferees will recommend a budget package before the beginning of the new fiscal year still is in question. County budget mark-up is scheduled for May 2, with final adoption on May 9. The new budget becomes effective on July 1, 2023.
Some items for your calendar: The popular George Mason Regional Library Book Sale will be held Thursday through Sunday, April 27 to 30 at the library, 7001 Little River Turnpike in Annandale. Hours are: 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day. On Saturday, April 29, the Taste of Annandale will be held on Tom Davis Drive in downtown Annandale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, as are a variety of entertainment and activities for the whole family.
The Art in the Mason District Governmental Center program features “Images of Green Spring Gardens,” a photo exhibit of seasons, foliage, and wildlife at one of our most picturesque local parks. Both color and black and white photos capture the variety of pleasures to be found at historic Green Spring Gardens. PJ Gross has a background in both design and history, and experiments with a variety of mediums. The artwork is on display at the Supervisor’s office, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale, through May 31, 2023.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.