Fairfax County’s budget deliberations continued on Tuesday, when the Board of Supervisors met with the county’s Human Services Council (HSC) to discuss recommendations in the FY 2015 proposed budget. Highlighting the many challenges facing the at-risk population of Fairfax County, Kevin Bell, longtime HSC chairman, noted that, since 2007-2008, public assistance caseloads have increased by more than 60 percent, and more than 64,000 county residents are living below the poverty level.
In his report to the Board, Mr. Bell said that “this stark rise in human services needs and precarious conditions have adverse impacts across the county – on our schools, public safety and the courts, the county’s human services agencies, and on our community partners.” As a result, the HSC recommends that the Board accept County Executive Ed Long’s proposed $8.5 million increase in the human services system, and reject several potential reductions in new or expanded services outlined in a March 18 memo from the County Executive in response to a Board request.
That March 18 memo, which included potential reductions of nearly $21 million, has created some consternation among county residents, as well as county employees. Some clarification about the list may be helpful. The list is not a recommendation by the County Executive. It is simply a response by staff to a specific request by the Board. Most of the list isn’t even new; some of the items have appeared on previous years’ potential cuts, or are new initiatives in the FY 2015 budget. Every year, it seems, funding for special education graduates is on the chopping block, but the Board has made a commitment to fund all eligible special education graduates (74 this year) for day support and employment services. The list also includes Behavioral Health Services for Youth and Families, an expanded initiative to address mental health issues among our students. Reductions in library funding and park positions are on the list, as well as money for ambulance and large fire apparatus replacement. Although there may be divergent views in the community about what should, or shouldn’t, be funded – a constituent once complained that, since he never had to call the police or fire department, he thought he shouldn’t have to pay for the service – supporting services that assist others in our community is part of the social compact that is the very foundation of community.
The Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings about the proposed budget next week, beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, and continuing on Wednesday, April 9, and Thursday, April 10, at 3 p.m. The hearings will be televised live on cable Channel 16. To register to speak at the budget public hearings, call the Clerk to the Board’s office at 703-324-3151 (TTY 711), or on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speaker_bos.htm. The Board of Supervisors will mark up the budget on April 22, with final adoption scheduled for April 29. The FY 2015 budget goes into effect on July 1.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.