Budget season is upon us! Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin presented his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012 on February 22. Now it will be up to the Board of Supervisors to consider his recommendations, receive feedback from residents and taxpayers about the proposals, and make adjustments before formally adopting the budget on April 26.
In his presentation, Mr. Griffin said that the best word to describe the budget is “stable.” His proposal is balanced (by state law, the county budget must be balanced; we cannot run a deficit) and maintains the current real estate tax rate of $1.09. For the third year in a row, no compensation increases are included, and the proposed transfer to the school system is flat at $1.61 billion, or $48.8 million less than requested by the School Board.
It appears that property values are beginning to recover after several years of decline. Residential values increased by 2.34 percent, and commercial real estate is up 3.73 percent, a pleasant surprise from previous forecasts, for an equalization rate of 2.67 percent across the county. Most neighborhoods in Mason District saw a modest increase in value. Apartments, which are classified with office, retail, and industrial space, appreciated an average of 14.54 percent reflecting, Mr. Griffin pointed out, that many people who lost their homes or cannot afford to buy a home must seek rental living space, which results in a very low vacancy rate and higher rentals charged.
Single family detached housing comprises 72.5 percent of housing stock in Fairfax County; townhouses and duplexes comprise 18.8 percent, and condominiums are nearly 8 percent. In Mason District, which has many high rise apartments and condos in the Skyline/Falls Church area, townhouses are the smallest component, with less than 13 percent of the total, or 5126 units in a 2009 survey. In the same survey, Mason District had 39,845 housing units; Fairfax County overall had 394,556 housing units. In the county, there were only 842 foreclosures last December, a drastic reduction from the peak of 2,257 in September 2008.
Mr. Griffin’s proposed budget reflects the economic realities of the “new normal,” he said. The budget contains no county funded expansion of existing programs, creation of new programs, or restorations of previous reductions. He cautioned that we must review the county’s infrastructure investments, which includes our investment in our county employees, their compensation and their benefits. With reductions and increased efficiencies, the per capita ratio of employees is 11.34 per 1000 residents, 17 percent below what it was 20 years ago. Aging physical infrastructure and new federal and state requirements for storm water and other environmental issues must be addressed, and soon.
The Mason District Budget Town Meeting, featuring County Executive Griffin , will be held on Monday, March 28, at the Bren Mar Park Elementary School, 6344 Beryl Road in Alexandria, just off Edsall Road. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Public hearings about the budget will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, March 29, 30, and 31, at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax. The entire FY 2012 Advertised Budget Plan, along with information about registering to speak at the public hearings, is available on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/budget.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org