The budget carryover package adopted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors earlier this month included a $500,000 reserve for gang prevention activities. Prevention, intervention, interdiction and suppression of gangs is paramount in our fight to curtail gang activity, and previous programs using those parameters have met with good success. So it was a bit of a surprise last week when, during the joint county/school boards’ budget discussion, the staff proposal would fund $185,000 for two new positions for the non-profit Northern Virginia Family Services to reduce current waitlists for an intervention program. The response to my question about the length of the waitlist for services was 16 youth. Another proposed position would fund consultant services to gather data about gang-related issues.
My reaction to the proposal was a mixture of frustration and anger. It is well known that gangs are recruiting in our schools and neighborhoods. It also is well known that after school programs, especially at the middle school level, are effective in helping youth learn to make the right decisions, build social skills, and even improve school performance. Expanding existing middle school and high school programs, and creating new ones at schools that don’t have them, would be a good investment of carryover funds. (Carryover essentially is the remaining balance from the previous fiscal year’s budget, via unexpended or unused funds. By Board direction, the majority of carryover balances are allocated for the county’s reserves, as recommended by the bond rating agencies.)
Following the committee discussion last week, staff will present full strategy and resource plans for Board approval by the end of this year. Expanding capacity for after school programs must be high on those plans.
Have you noticed how many local organizations are celebrating anniversaries this year? Fairfax Water celebrated its anniversary yesterday, celebrating 60 years of providing quality and affordable drinking water to the community; Holmes Middle School in the Lincolnia area of Mason District is celebrating its 50th anniversary on October 21; and the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary of service on October 3 at Queen of Apostles Church. These significant anniversaries reflect a time when Fairfax County was changing from an agricultural economy to the vibrant and thriving megalopolis we are today. But the needs – water, education, social services – have not changed. They simply have expanded, and the community still can rely on the good foundation that their founders established decades ago.
The Art in the Mason District Governmental Center exhibit features watercolors by Springfield Art Guild member Cynthia Schoeppel. Several of the watercolors feature the same floral theme, beginning with a black and white sketch that is then presented in different colors. Her watercolors of New Mexico also capture the heat and arid landscape of Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. You almost can feel the temperature rising as you view them. The show can be viewed Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m, until Thanksgiving.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.