Fairfax County’s annual budget process is nearing conclusion, as the Board will mark up the proposed budget at the May 2 Board of Supervisors meeting. Final adoption of the budget will be on May 9. By law, the county’s budget must be balanced; we cannot run a deficit like the federal government often does. The county’s FY 2024 budget becomes effective on July 1, 2023.
What is unknown at present is revenue from the Commonwealth of Virginia because the General Assembly has not finalized its work on the state budget. A so-called “skinny budget” was adopted in Richmond, but House and Senate budget conferees still are working to resolve significant budget priority issues between the two chambers. The House and Senate budgets are approximately one billion dollars apart. A successful conclusion to the General Assembly debates could mean another several million dollars in state funds to Fairfax County but, since the amount of that revenue is not firm, it cannot be included in the Board’s budget decisions.
When the General Assembly reconvened earlier this month for its so-called “veto” session, Governor Glenn Youngkin already had signed some Fairfax County initiatives, including SB 1069, which clarified that drivers must stop for pedestrians at clearly marked crosswalks, any regular pedestrian crossings, and any intersections where the speed limit is 35 mph or less. In 2020, the General Assembly passed legislation stating that “yield” now means “stop.” However, street signs could not be changed because federal regulations say that “Stop for Pedestrian” signs can only be used in states where the state law specifically requires that a driver must stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. SB 1069 clarifies that language and makes it clear that localities authorized to install such signs can do so, helping to avoid confusion among drivers.
Another bill signed by the governor, HB 1587, adds contractors to the list of those able to act on behalf of Fairfax County to remove illegal signs from state-maintained rights-of-way. Fairfax County has a program to remove signs, which was accomplished by using county employees or the Community Labor Force administered by the Sheriff’s office. When the Sheriff curtailed the program last year because of staffing shortages, the county initiated new legislation, via Delegate Rip Sullivan, to allow the program to use contractors for illegal sign removal.
A great disappointment to the Board and many residents was the governor’s veto of SB 1085, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin, that sought to address loud vehicle exhaust noise in the Commonwealth. SB 1085 would have established decibel guidelines for police to use to enforce the loud vehicle exhaust noise which is on the rise across the Commonwealth. The legislation also would have required motor vehicle inspection sites to reject vehicles that are not in compliance with noise requirements. Senator Ebbin’s bill passed both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support, and we were hopeful that the county finally would be given the authority and tools by the state to enforce loud vehicle exhaust noise. In vetoing the bill, which had been amended to direct the Virginia Department of Transportation to convene a workgroup of stakeholders to examine the issue of vehicle noise in the Commonwealth, Governor Youngkin indicated that the bill was unnecessary. Sadly, the governor’s veto was sustained, and excessively loud vehicle noise will continue to plague our waking and sleeping hours. Until this issue is addressed legislatively at the state level, the county lacks the tools to stop these vehicles for noise violations.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.