Fairfax County’s Human Services Council, a volunteer citizen-led body appointed by the Board of Supervisors, presented its recommendations to address the ongoing budget shortfall of the Community Services Board (CSB) last week. The Human Services Council was tasked with the difficult job of reviewing the CSB’s proposed program reductions to meet its budget limits. Increased service demands and long-term inadequate financing from the Commonwealth of Virginia have created a structural imbalance for the CSB, which must be addressed to avert draconian cuts to existing services, and restrictions for new CSB clients.
In its review, the Council urged the Board of Supervisors to keep open New Horizons, Sojourn House, Gartlan Center Emergency Services, and Daytime Shift Mobile Crisis Services. Council Chairman Kevin Bell noted that “the adverse impact and ultimate higher costs in the long term outweigh any short term financial budget savings that might otherwise be achieved.” To keep those programs going would cost $1.1 million this year. Instead, the Council recommended eliminating several positions, potential use of county reserve funds (the Board of Supervisors set aside $4.2 million in the FY2013 budget to assist CSB in getting out of the “hole,” which is expected to be larger next year if action is not taken soon), and adoption of a Work Plan that will support and strengthen the CSB’s commitment to long-term financial stability. County Executive Edward L. Long made his recommendations at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, as part of the Carryover package that will be considered in September.
For the first time in my memory, the chairman of the CSB addressed the Board of Supervisors about CSB governance. Deputy Sheriff Mark Sites, newly elected CSB chairman, told the Supervisors that the CSB will do “everything in our power to ensure that neither we, nor you, find ourselves in this kind of budget and service crisis again.” Chairman Sites anticipates a Transformation Completion Plan from CSB staff and quarterly written reports to the Board of Supervisors, to ensure that the CSB agency is sound fiscally and programmatically. He said that the CSB already has established an ad hoc fiscal oversight committee, will receive technical assistance from the County Executive’s office, and will review CSB program efficiencies to help mitigate any future projected shortfall. This is a huge undertaking, but one that is crucial to the future of CSB and the people it serves.
Also on Tuesday, the Board adopted the streetcar as the Locally Preferred Alternative for the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, which will serve the Skyline area of Mason District. The Arlington County Council acted last week to adopt the same alternative, so now an application to enter the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts Program can be submitted in the fall. Planning efforts to enhance public transportation along the Columbia Pike corridor have been underway for the past decade, and support of both jurisdictions is necessary to move forward. Details of the project are on line at www.piketransit.com.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org