Budget season progresses in Fairfax County, with three sessions of public hearings this week before the Board of Supervisors. More than 200 people and organizations have signed up for three-minute speaking slots. Actually, not all of the speakers make speeches. In one memorable hearing, young musicians performed, reinforcing their desire to include support for the arts in the county budget.
No one is left out. The Board hears from the School Board, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, non-profit human service providers, county employees, teachers, arts organizations, and many individuals speaking on their own behalf. Some of the most poignant are new Americans, who may struggle to speak in English, but who relish the opportunity to advocate for their children and their community, and exercise their newly-claimed civic responsibilities. Mostly, though, the public hearings provide additional insight to the Board as we move toward decisions for the next year’s budget. Programs that were slated for cuts may be restored because of what we hear at the public hearings. Sometimes, new issues are raised, giving the Board more information that can be plugged into future planning, or incorporated into an existing program. Most speakers are polite, perhaps a bit intimidated by the Channel 16 television cameras, and many start off by acknowledging that they are not public speakers! Very few become abrasive or overstay their allotted time: Chairman Sharon Bulova gently reminds speakers to “wrap up” and rarely has to rap the gavel and move to the next speaker.
The budget public hearings are televised live on Fairfax County Cable Channel 16 through tonight. The Board will hold a final budget committee meeting on Friday, April 18, and will mark up the budget on April 22. Adoption of the amended budget is scheduled for April 29. The FY 2015 budget takes effect on July 1. As noted last week, the absence of an adopted state budget makes the Board’s job more difficult than usual, since we have no assurance that the predicted transfer from the Commonwealth will occur as originally projected. The county budget must be balanced, so any missing revenue from the state means reductions in our local programs, at least temporarily.
Safe Haven, a program for homeless individuals operating at the First Christian Church of Falls Church (FCCFC) on Leesburg Pike, continues to assist people in need, with a large cadre of wonderful volunteers. Originally started by the late Bill La Liberte, Safe Haven expanded several years ago, and now serves nearly 100 individuals on a weekly basis. Volunteers provide mid-day meals, haircuts when needed, language classes, skills building and resume writing to participants. Mostly, though, their mission is to care for those who need help, and they do it magnificently! Rob Paxton, who has been Safe Haven’s director and premier volunteer, was honored at a church reception Sunday, emceed by FCCFC’s inspiring and delightful pastor, Rev. Kathleen Moore. Rob is handing over the reins to Erin McKinney, as he begins a new job elsewhere in the county. Thank you, Rob, and thanks to all the volunteers who work for the betterment of our community.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.