Fairfax County Executive Anthony Griffin presented his last budget to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Mr. Griffin will retire in late April, after 22 years of outstanding service to Fairfax County, the last twelve as County Executive. The County Executive’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget held few surprises, staying within a narrow range of limited recommendations and reductions. The balanced budget maintains consistent support for schools with a recommended General Fund Transfer of 52.5 percent, or $1.68 billion. The proposed amount is $72.5 million more than the transfer last year, but $63.3 million less than the Superintendent’s school budget request.
Mr. Griffin’s proposed budget does not recommend a tax rate increase, although he did suggest advertising a rate of $1.09 per hundred valuation to allow flexibility in Board decisions. The Board may establish a rate lower than advertised, but may not go higher than advertised; thus the recommendation to provide for flexibility. The proposed budget is balanced, as required by state law. Mr. Griffin also recommended a one cent increase in the stormwater fee, bringing it to two-and-a-half cents, noting that the increase is required to meet federal and state regulatory requirements for clean water and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.
Nearly 61 percent of Fairfax County’s tax base is derived from real estate taxes. After several years of low or no growth in General Fund revenue, equalization is at 3.27 percent. Residential values are only a small portion of that figure; nonresidential (commercial and office) values topped out at 8.21 percent, reflecting some recovery in that market. For Mason District homeowners, neighborhood values fluctuated generally between 5 percent down and 5 percent up. You can find the value of your Fairfax County property on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov. On the home page, click on Real Estate Assessments in the upper left corner titled “On-line Services.” Enter your street address and voila! There’s your current assessment and other pertinent details.
Of special interest to Board members during their first look at budget details was the situation with libraries and parks. Although they account for just 1.4 percent of the entire budget, cuts to previous budgets have created unanticipated service delivery issues, maintenance needs, and constituent demands to rectify the problems. Libraries and parks are heavily used, and loved, by Fairfax County residents, so it is likely that the Board will take a closer look at those budget and staffing issues.
Mr. Griffin reminded the Board of significant challenges looming on the horizon for future budgets: school needs, employee compensation, maintaining our safety net of services, funding the public portion of the Tyson’s transformation; meeting our transportation requirements, and seeking additional revenue diversification. Without an economic recovery and additional revenue generation, it is unlikely that those challenges can be met in the near future.
The Mason District Budget Town Meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Mr. Griffin will discuss his proposed budget and take questions at the end of his presentation. Public hearings on the proposed budget are scheduled for April 10, 11, and 12. More about that and other budget meetings in future columns, so stay tuned.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org