The 16th annual Mason District Budget Town Meeting was held Monday night at the Bren Mar Park Elementary School in the Alexandria section of Mason District. Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin, the guest speaker, presented information about his proposed FY 2012 county budget, and answered questions from the audience.
Of concern to a resident from the Bren Mar Park community was the number of zoning and code violations he counted in his neighborhood. Both Mr. Griffin and I outlined the duties of inspectors in the Department of Code Compliance, which replaced the strike teams established by the Board of Supervisors in 2007. Code inspectors now are trained and authorized to investigate multiple violations of the building and zoning codes, leading to more efficient enforcement and quicker issuance of notices of violation. As a result, more violations are being cleared, and those property owners who do not comply are taken to court by the county, where the judge can force compliance and impose significant civil fines.
Another question focused on the potential loss of state and federal funding for human services needs, especially the county’s Community Funding Pool, which helps non-profit organizations partner with the county to provide housing and food programs, child care, and other services that help families in need. The Community Development Block Grant program, or CDBG, was started during President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative, and funds from that program have helped local jurisdictions around the nation extend local dollars to serve more people with basic needs. CDBG funding is under attack by new members of the U.S. House of Representatives, which makes local budgeting precarious since the county’s budget must be balanced and adopted next month, most likely before Congress decides on the federal budget. Calls for help to non-profits, as well as Fairfax County, have increased exponentially during the past two years, and local food pantries are struggling to meet the demand.
Sewer fees are scheduled for another increase, leading one attendee to question when it would all end. The answer, outlined many times in local media discussions, is that new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay mean that wastewater treatment plans must meet discharge conditions for removal of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment, and prepare for other restrictions that will be imposed in the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution diet that EPA and the states have set for the Bay. Additional regulations are anticipated to be more restrictive, and EPA has determined that cost is not a consideration, although many local governments have protested that federal funding will be needed to augment limited local taxpayer dollars.
Although not a county budget item, several questions were raised about maintenance of roadways in Fairfax County, which is the responsibility of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the state agency that maintains and controls roads in the county. The only good news may be that Sleepy Hollow Road and Backlick Road, two Mason District roads that are seriously deteriorating, are scheduled for repaving and repair later this year. Mr. Griffin pointed out that, in 2004, the state’s allocation to Fairfax County for secondary roads was $28 million; last year the allocation decreased to $100,000, and next year will be practically zero. Washboard abs may be desirable; washboard roads are not!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at email@example.com