Fairfax County Executive Ed Long unveiled Tuesday his $7 billion FY2014 budget proposal—a plan that raises real estate taxes and cuts funds to parks and libraries, among other services.
Long’s advertised budget includes a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate, which is projected to raise nearly $42 million in count revenue. But when coupled with increases in real estate assessments, the proposed rate would cost the average county household about $262 more in real estate taxes.
The mean residential real estate tax assessment for the Centreville area is projected to rise by 3.14 percent.
Revenue projections are generally flat for the coming year, showing a slight decrease in growth from 2.79 percent in FY2013 to 2.77 percent in FY2014.
With sequestration around the corner, Long said the FY 2014 budget process was particularly difficult. And the effects on the county are still uncertain, he said, adding that he would be “shocked” if legislators agreed to a compromise this week.
Long's presentation showed $25 million in federal revenues, which go mainly to social services aid across the county.
Fairfax is not the only locality concerned about the impact of sequestration. Gov. Bob McDonnell said recently that sequestration may push Virginia into recession.
Funding for schools goes up
The budget outlines $3.59 billion in general fund spending, a slight decrease of .37 percent from the FY2013 revised budget.
Of that, $1.72 billion is slated to go to Fairfax County Public Schools—approximately $62 million less than the amount the school board hoped for.
School officials requested a transfer of $1.78 billion, an increase of more than $95 million, or 5.7 percent, over FY 2013. Long’s budget proposal only meets $33.7 million, or an increase of 2 percent.
“I think we made it pretty clear in November that we did not have 5 percent to give the school board,” Long said.
What about employee pay raises?
County workers would not receive pay increases under the current budget proposal except for public safety employees, who would get longevity adjustments.
In FY 2013, former County Executive Tony Griffin gave county employees their first compensation increase after virtually three years of pay freezes.
Long’s divisive proposed employee pay program, which was criticized by Supervisors and employee union reps last week, was included in the budget package.
'There's not much to be excited about here.'
The budget also includes job cuts and funding reductions to parks, libraries and other agencies totaling $20 million.
A $374,000 reduction for library materials would result in fewer titles and copies available to residents at public libraries. Another $200,000 reduction from the Park Authority’s budget will eliminate funding for maintenance and renovations to tennis and basketball courts.
Of the 91 positions Long has proposed to eliminate, 79 are vacant and 12 are filled. During a press conference after his presentation, Long said he and his staff would work to avoid layoffs and move employees from eliminated positions to other openings.
The proposed budget also adds 11 new public safety positions—nine police officers to help better monitor crime around the four new Silver Line Metro stations expected to open by the end of the year and two animal positions to help staff the newly expanded animal shelter.
Long said he designed the budget to maintain current public safety levels without adding too many new programs.
Supervisor Jeff McKay took issue with devoting police officers solely to one areas of the county affected by the Silver Line.
“I understand there are some needs there,” he said, “but there is a public safety visibility concern throughout the county.”
“The Advertised Budget reflects the difficult economic situation we are still experiencing,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said in an emailed statement after the budget presentation. “We are not yet out of the woods as we recover more slowly than we would like from the Great Recession.”
Other supervisors were disappointed with the cuts and tax increases.
“There’s not much to be excited about here,” Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said.
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