The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a two percent "market rate adjustment" for County employees, effective Sept. 24.
The $15 million measure is the first raise for the workers in three years, and was part of the Board's deliberation on of unspent funds from the fiscal year 2011 budget. At $3.3 billion, Fiscal Year 2011 General Fund revenues increased $50 million, and the County saved $69.47 million in expenditures.
"As part of this carryover package, I am proposing the use of approximately half of the [$8 million] litigation reserve to fund an increase in the Market Rate Adjustment for county employees from 1.52 percent to 2 percent," said Bulova, who read from prepared remarks. "This increase will cost $3.7 million for a total MRA cost in FY 2012 of $15 million."
Fairfax County has fallen behind its regional counterparts with employee compensation, according to Karen Conchar of the Fairfax County Government Employees Union. "A fair pay raise represents just one-half of one percent of the County's next year's budget. Of the five Northern Virginia jurisdictions, Fairfax County ranks fourth in average county employee salaries… Meanwhile, according to one recent study, Fairfax County employees earn nearly $12,000 less per year than the average Fairfax County resident."
The remainder of the litigation reserve, $4.25 million, would be added to the reserve of $24.44 million identified by the County Executive in the carryover package. "So, we're reserving and saving this funding, and it will be put toward next year, which we know will be very challenging," Bulova said. "As a result of these actions, $28.69 million is set aside in reserves to address the projected budget shortfall in FY 2013, and this is added for the critical requirements of 2012 in light of the significant flooding event of Sept. 8, 2011."
Fairfax County Executive Tony Griffin projects a $100 million budget shortfall in FY2013. "I'm uncomfortable with the word 'surplus'," he said. "We do have a positive balance, but I don't believe it is a surplus, and it increases the likelihood that come next year, given the gap, that either employees will not get an increase next year, or to facilitate an increase, we will have to make reductions in our expenditures. I have asked department heads on the county side to give me reductions in the range of 1 percent, 3 percent and 5 percent in anticipation that should we go forward with pay increases for 2013, that we will have to make significant reductions to County programs."
Griffin has asked department heads to plan for future budget tightening. "I have instructed agencies to identify spending reduction options as part of the FY 2013 budget development, which will be incorporated into the budget recommendations for FY 2013."
Employee raises should be at the beginning of budget deliberations, said Hunter Mill Supervisor Catherine Hudgens. "We’re going to be losing employees to other jurisdictions. We want our employees to see they are valued," she said.
Braddock District Supervisor John Cook agreed. "In my firm, when we talk about staff compensation, we ask 'What do we need to pay to attract the best employees?' We answer it first, then work the budget around that."
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland is already looking to next year: "This issue is certainly going to be with us at the next budget. It would be helpful to know what the thinking is, to know, will we or can we cover these requests in next budget cycle?"
The Board approved these funding options:
- $10 million - Funding for the Legacy Systems Replacement Project, FOCUS. The payment would continue to support a Fairfax County government and school system multi-year, joint initiative to modernize many administrative applications.
- $6 million - The General Fund transfer to Fund 501, County Insurance Fund, is increased by $6 million for accrued liability adjustments. An actuarial analysis is performed each year to estimate the value of property and other self-insured losses for which the County is liable.
- $1 million - Set aside to support relocating human services agencies through a new lease agreement, which will eventually pay for itself in cost savings throughout the term of the lease.
- $2 million - Funding will be used to increase cybersecurity, particularly as it pertains to secure access of web-based social media. It would also improve compliance with regulatory standards, proactively protect the County's computer networks and provide for real-time network security. As funds available in Fund 105, Cable Communications, are being used to secure and deploy this technology, there is no net cost to the General Fund.
- $5 million - Funding of $5 million, offset entirely by revenue from Fund 319 (the Affordable Housing Fund), would support affordable housing initiatives consistent with the Blueprint for Affordable Housing. Of the $5 million, funding of $2 million would support a funding gap for FY 2012 Housing Blueprint activities, providing services to almost 200 additional households. $1.5 million would be used for rehabilitation and renovation work at the Wedgewood Apartments community center and related facilities, including increased accessibility. $1.5 million would be used to support non-profit organizations in supportive services to 72 homeless individuals and families and an additional 303 households on the County’s affordable housing waiting lists who are receiving rental subsidies.
- $6.8 million - $5 million would go toward costs associated with a new Public Safety Headquarters building for the County, and $1.8 million would support work associated with renovating Bailey's Fire Station.
- $1 million - Funding of $1 million is required for costs associated with a new lease agreement for Fairfax County Human Services agencies. This includes information technology and infrastructure costs, architectural design and moving. All Fairfax County Human Services agencies now working at 6245 Leesburg Pike in Falls Church would move to a new location at 7611 Little River Turnpike in Annandale, probably in January 2012. Impacted agencies include SkillSource, Job Corner, Adult and Aging, Child Protective Services, the Office for Women and Domestic and Sexual Violence Services and several others.
- $422,000 - Funding is required to support ongoing litigating in pending legal cases. $200,000 of this would support a case impacting Fairfax County's retirement systems, wherein the Virginia attorney general is suing Bank of New York Mellon on behalf of the Virginia Retire System and local retirement systems in Fairfax County, Arlington County and the Fairfax County Public Schools. (If the lawsuit is successful, the county would most likely recoup the money.)
- $200,000 - This money would go toward increasing the library's collection of e-books and other electronic materials, which are under increasing demand from patrons. $900,000 - $900,000 would go toward Fund 104, Information Technology, for infrastructure, applications and more for the FOCUS project and other County computer systems.
- $250,000 - This would provide ongoing support or the 2015 Police and Fire World Games in Fairfax County, an Olympics-style event that is projected to generate substantial revenue through receipts from local hotels, restaurants, venues and shopping associated with event participants and spectators. From the fund balance, $81,100 would go toward 150th Civil War Anniversary events and expenses and $50,000 would go toward the Birmingham Green Feasibility Study.