At the conclusion of last week’s Mason District budget town meeting, I asked attendees to share what decisions they would make if they were the decision-makers. Their anonymous suggestions were written on brightly colored “stickies” and posted on the meeting room wall for all to review. Decision-making is tough, and many preferred to listen, and not try to decide.
Suggestions included standardizing library hours for all branches, and more funding for library books and homework support. Several responses focused on fully funding the employee compensation plan for the county (the budget proposal would grant a one percent salary increase for all employees, not the forecasted 2.51 percent Market Rate Adjustment). One resident noted that “change is good, but keep development smart,” which aligns with two other suggestions: more focus on energy efficiency and solar, and support livable communities. Another wrote that “schools deserve a higher priority than human services” and added the idea that strong schools provide a healthy citizenry that requires fewer human services.
Budget watchers know that schools are a higher priority, accounting for 52.9 percent of General Fund disbursements, while human services gets 11.1 percent, second only to public safety, with 11.9 percent of the total General Fund budget. The remaining 24.1 percent of the General Fund is allocated to all the other responsibilities for Fairfax County, such as Metro, Connector buses, land development, the sheriff’s office and courts, land development services, and information technology, which provides access to county services 24 hours a day.
The “stickies” idea was not new; it was used the night before during the community meeting at the James Lee Center about formation of a forward-looking Strategic Plan for the county. However, that meeting did not include much discussion about the budget. Rather, the 100 or so residents who participated in facilitated small table discussions focused more on housing that is affordable, transportation (including sidewalks and bike lanes), and diversity. The county’s on-line survey about the Strategic Plan concludes this Sunday, so there still is time to participate. Simply log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/strategicplan, and answer five simple questions. More than 13,000 responses have been logged so far; Fairfax County is waiting for your ideas!
It’s always fun to welcome a new business in Mason District, and I was pleased to help cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening of the Tom Dolan Swim School on Saturday. The new school, at 6112 Arlington Blvd., just east of the Safeway grocery store in the Willston II shopping center, provides swimming lessons to infants, toddlers, youth, and adults. The new school features two indoor pools for classes, large private changing rooms, and plenty of viewing area for Mom and Dad to cheer their little tadpoles. The school’s director, Tom Dolan, is an Arlington native, who churned up Olympic swim lanes long before Michael Phelps, winning gold in Atlanta in 1996, and gold and silver in Sydney in 2000. Tom’s medals were on display at the opening of the swim school, and they are surprisingly heavy!