Fairfax County’s annual budget exercise began in earnest on Tuesday, as new County Executive Bryan J. Hill unveiled his proposed FY2019 budget. This is Mr. Hill’s first budget presentation, and his budget message noted that he was extremely impressed by the work of his predecessor and the county’s Department of Management and Budget. Mr. Hill succeeded Edward L. Long, Jr., who retired on Sep. 15, and Kirk Kincannon, who served as Acting County Executive until Mr. Hill joined the county staff on Jan. 2. Mr. Hill added that the proposed budget “recognizes the importance of county employees in keeping us moving forward and the work to be done on important issues like gang prevention and the opioid crisis, while maintaining our strong community services and programs.”
Mr. Hill proposed a balanced budget that fully funds the School Board’s requested transfer (accounting for increased state revenues), and fully funds the compensation plan for all county employees. The proposed school transfer is $2.26 Billion, an increase of $95.10 million over FY2018. This amount includes both the operating transfer and school debt service. Mr. Hill reminded the Board that Fairfax County contains 14 percent of the Commonwealth’s population, and pays 24 percent of state income tax receipts, but receives only 23 cents back in state per dollar spending. That’s an important reminder when considering the lack of state support for education overall, as well as funding for Metro.
The county’s compensation plan is fully funded, with an across-the-board 2.25 percent Market Rate Adjustment (MRA). The MRA has not been fully funded during the past two budget years. The proposed budget also includes a recommendation to index the Living Wage to the MRA, which would increase from $14.50 to $14.83 per hour.
Many county priorities are funded in the proposed budget. However, in order to make that happen, Mr. Hill recommended a 2.5-cent increase in the real property tax rate, from the current $1.13 per $100 valuation, to $1.155. Mr. Hill noted that, if adopted, the average homeowner tax bill would increase by $268. Assessments in most Mason District neighborhoods increased by five percent or less. One cent on the real property tax rate equates to $24.64 million.
The Board of Supervisors will spend the next 10 weeks examining the proposed budget, making adjustments and changes before adopting a final budget on May 1. Budget public hearings will begin on Tuesday, April 10, and continue on Wednesday and Thursday, April 11 and 12, in the Board auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax. The Mason District Budget Town Meeting will be held on Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m., at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. County Executive Hill and Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro will make a budget presentation, followed by a question and answer period. The meeting is open to the public, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.