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Friday, March 11, 2016

The Fairfax County budget: 10 things you need to know

The slogan for school funding advocates.
(1) The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board are engaged in a contentious conflict about how much of a funding increase should go to the public school system. The budget proposed by Deputy County Executive Ed Long proposes transferring $1.88 billion to FCPS for operating expenses, an increase of 3 percent ($54 million) over the previous year. The school board has requested a 4 percent increase, which it says it needs to meet increased enrollment and various fixed costs.

(2)  The BoS approved an advertised tax rate increase of 4 cents, meaning the current rate of $1.09 per $100 of assessed value would rise to $1.13. The board could approve a final budget with a rate lower than 4 cents, but cannot go higher. A 3-cent increase would generate about $68 million, which would nearly close the county’s $70 million shortfall. A 4-cent increase would help meet the school board’s budget request.

(3)  The advertised budget reflects concerns about the short-term economic outlook. Office vacancy rates are still high (16.5 percent) countywide. Job growth and federal procurement contracts remain sluggish, and the housing market is underperforming compared to the nation as a whole.

(4)  Nearly 65 percent of county revenue comes from property taxes. Almost 15 percent comes from personal property taxes and nearly 13 percent from sales tax revenue.

(5)  Under the advertised budget, 52 percent of funds (a total of $2.1 billion) would go to the schools, 11.9 percent ($473 million) would go to public safety, and 11 percent ($438 million) would go to health and welfare programs.

(6)  The budget presented by Long includes several spending priorities, such as public safety (for the Diversion First program, which provides mental health assistance to certain offenders; staffing for a new South County police station; and implementation of recommendations by the Ad Hoc Police Commission), a 1.3 percent market rate adjustment in employee compensation, various infrastructure and human services needs, and an increase in reserves.

(7)  Both county and school officials have long complained that Fairfax County is underfunded by the state, compared to other localities. The county could get more state funds this year, as the Virginia General Assembly is considering a budget deal that would increase the investment in K-12 education by more than $900 million, including a 2 percent pay raise for teachers.

(8)  Faced with the prospect of a $75 million shortfall projected for next year, the county is engaged in a long-term assessment of its priorities. The county is going through a “lines of business” process to shape the county’s strategic direction and look for ways to cut costs. Residents can provide input on their priorities on an online survey.

(9)  To increase revenue, the BoS is again considering the possibility of imposing a tax on restaurant meals, which would have to be approved by the public through a ballot referendum. The General Assembly has been asked to consider allowing the county to tax alcohol served in restaurants and cigarettes.

(10) The BoS will hold public hearings on the budget April 5-7. The BoS is scheduled to mark up the budget on April 19 and adopt a budget on April 26. The school board will hold budget hearings May 17 and will adopt a budget May 26.

The information here is based on a presentation to the Braddock District Council March 9 by Ellicia Seard, deputy director of the Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget, and Katie Horstman, senior budget analyst.

To learn more, come to the Mason Budget Town Hall, hosted by Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, March 16, 7 p.m., at the Mason Government Center. 


  1. I'm adamantly opposed to a meals tax. That's in part because I have yet to see any evidence that the proceeds of such a tax would slow the runaway increases in property taxes we've been experiencing. However, if Fairfax residents unwisely pass one, I hope they only do so on condition that the proceeds be exclusively dedicated to school funding. The BOS has a history of burning through money and the last thing we need is to provide them with a slush fund to use for even more reckless spending. In NOVA, one tax increase usually begets another and I have no reason to believe the BOS won't continue to look for other ways to wring money from already overtaxed residents.

  2. I only need to know one thing about the current BoS; Tax and Spend. Need to spend more, tax more.

  3. Please vote against the food tax

  4. The Fairfax County School Board and the majority of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors are so desperate for increased taxes to fund their dreams for an even more bloated, inefficient, and ineffective County Government (does anyone in their right-mind believe that Fairfax County takes code enforcement seriously?) they will begin pushing for the legalization of more activities on the grounds the increased taxes will be used to fund the schools and be dedicated to improving the future of "our kids."

    What to expect?

    First, a push to legalize casinos because they will claim the new MGM Grand at National Harbor is taking millions of dollars that should be staying in Virginia.

    Than legalize sports betting.

    Then legalize marijuana.

    Then legalize cocaine.

    Then legalize the "victimless" crime of prostitution.

    All of these newly legalized activities will be heavily taxed - and these taxes will be dedicated to school funding for "the children." As if money isn't fungible and the taxes raised on the newly legalized activities will simply allow money raised through property taxes - which will not decline, but if the voters complain loudly enough will perhaps not be raised as sharply as they otherwise would - to be used for other important uses, the most pressing being the building of an opulent new regional Fairfax County Office Building in Mason District named in honor of the extremely long and dedicated years of service of former BOS Chairman, now Congressman, Gerry Connolly (who is complaining Tom Davis has a street named after him and he doesn't even have a stinking Metro Station named in his honor).

  5. This County needs innovation to bring in big dollars, a meal tax may just pay for some of the services the County provides to the illegals.

    This County is a mess, and is doomed under its current old and worn out leadership with static quo ideas of finding new funds. I think they need to go take a tour of how other communities in the US transformed themselves from a Dump to vibrancy.

  6. Where does it end?

  7. I think there should be a complete analysis of school spending. From past experience, I know that schools have a lot of wasted spending especially in the upper echelon.

    1. Agreed!! We're being bled dry by this Board! Try CUTTING or streamlining instead of always going after more money. I'd like to keep asking my company for more money every time I come up short. Every hear of work SMARTER??

  8. No additional tax on food. "PERIOD"