The annual budget exercise for Fairfax County is nearly over. Tuesday’s mark-up session focused on investing in Fairfax County with a budget made very tight by a soft commercial property market and increasing demands for services. Under Chairman Bulova’s leadership, the Board approved a responsible budget package that retains the current $1.09 tax rate per $100 real property valuation, implements a new compensation plan for county employees, comes very close to fully funding the School Board’s request for the school transfer, and addresses the Board’s commitment to bolster the county’s reserve funds, as recommended by financial analysts. Under the plan, targeted county reserves will increase from five percent to 10 percent of General Fund disbursements, still low compared to other counties of our size.
The Board of Supervisors did not agree with County Executive Ed Long’s recommendations for de-funding several programs. The Board’s adjusted budget restores $1.8 million for Healthy Families Fairfax, a program that helps hundreds of at-risk families succeed with parenting programs and other supports. The mark-up package also restores funding for the Good Touch, Bad Touch program, which provides children with a non-threatening way to talk about sexual abuse and body safety. One popular program for many Mason District neighborhoods – enforcement of the grass ordinance – is restored. Two positions for probation counselors to staff the Veterans Treatment Docket at Fairfax County General District Court were added, to help veterans, who have served their country but have gotten into trouble, navigate the court system.
Sadly, the Market Rate Adjustment (MRA) for county employees was not fully funded, although Mr. Long’s recommendation for a .84 percent MRA increase was amended to a 1.1 percent increase, short of the hoped-for 1.68 percent increase, effective on July 1. A new compensation plan was created last year by the board, in close collaboration with county employee group representatives. No one anticipated that the pay plan would not be fully funded the first year out, and budget guidelines adopted by the Board on Tuesday direct the County Executive to fully fund the MRA in the FY 2017 budget.
The budget delays the closure of the Annandale Adult Day Health Care Center program for six months, until the Lincolnia ADHC Center is renovated and re-opened to receive the additional Annandale clients. The program serves frail elderly, who pay for the service on a sliding scale, in a staff-supported day program. According to the Health Department, attendance in the program is down, but the program is vital for families who may be doing double duty – caring for an elderly parent and needing to work to support that care. I have asked county staff to take extra steps to ensure a smooth transition for clients to another site, whether Lincolnia or another center.
The budget mark-up was approved by a 7 to 3 vote. Supervisors Frey, Herrity, and Smyth voted nay. The Board will adopt the mark-up package on April 28. The FY 2016 budget will take effect on July 1, 2015.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.