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Friday, September 21, 2012

Community input sought on how to pay for transportation as state funding runs out

Fairfax County will be holding a series of community outreach meetings over the next couple of months to explore what the public thinks should be done about paying for transportation in light of diminished state funding.Various options are on the table, including a meals tax.

The meeting for Mason District residents will be Oct. 1, 7 p.m. at the Mason District Government Center. Other nearby sessions will be Sept. 24 in the West Springfield Government Center and Oct. 11 at the Braddock Hall, both also at 7 p.m.

A new revenue source is needed, because “we are not receiving the funding we need from the state to keep transportation viable in Northern Virginia,” Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova told members of the Fairfax Federation of Citizen Associations Sept. 20.

“There won’t be any money left in the state coffers by 2018” to fund new transportation programs, Bulova said. “There are some projects underway now, but that’s it.”

“When the state ceases to invest in transportation, it’s the local governments that will have to pick up the costs” for road and transit construction and improvement projects and also for the maintenance of existing roads, she said. And that includes ongoing projects like the Dulles Toll Road and Metro Silver Line and proposed efforts like widening Guinea Road and Rolling Road.

Elected leaders in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and the Tidewater region, who have formed a coalition called “Virginia’s Urban Crescent,” sent a joint letter to Gov. Robert McDonnell Sept. 4 expressing alarm at the state’s failure to fund transportation. The letter notes that Northern Virginia commuters waste 74 hours a year stuck in traffic.

Bulova says the upcoming community meetings will center around this question: “If Fairfax County were to take on a greater role in transportation, what sources of revenue would be acceptable to residents?” Without some additional revenue stream, she said, the county would have to cut funding for other county services, including schools, parks, libraries, and social services.

One answer might be a meals tax, she suggested. The last time the county put a meals tax on the ballot, in 1992, it was shot down by voters. This time, it might be more palatable, as voters grapple with the realization of state disinvestment in transportation. The cities of Fairfax, Alexandria, and Falls Church charge restaurant diners a meals tax, as does Arlington County.

In fact, Arlington, which worked out an agreement with the state government decades ago to have the county manage its roads, is only able to continue to do that because it uses revenue from its meals tax, as well as a proportion of state gasoline tax revenue.

Noting that Braddock Supervisor John Cook wants Fairfax County to take over responsibility for local roads, Bulova says that would cost about $100 million to $200 million a year and doubts whether the state would be willing and able to provide enough money.

Fairfax County has the authority to put a proposed meals tax on the ballot, she said, “and we want to know what the public thinks about that.” A meals tax of 4 percent could generate $80 million a year.

The county also has the authority to put out a referendum asking voters to approve an income tax, but she is less comfortable with that option because “we’d have to put a tax of 1 percent on the referendum even if we want to do less.”

With regard to another issue, Bulova called the proposed state constitutional amendment on eminent domain that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot “troublesome.” Noting that Virginia law already protects property owners, she said, “I’m afraid people will vote for it, unaware of how damaging it will be.”

If the amendment passes, landowners will be able to object to anything the county does on the grounds that it could lead to a loss of revenue—and that will restrict the ability of local governments to undertake road projects. For example, a person could seek compensation if a parade goes by their place of business limiting access, she said.

Another worry for the county is the looming specter of sequestration, if Congress can’t agree on a plan to cut the federal deficit. Fairfax County businesses are not bouncing back from the “great recession,” Bulova said, because they are concerned about the potential loss of federal contracts. Federal funding is not a large proportion of the federal budget, but there is a concern that cuts in federal funding for human services could have a huge impact.

She said the board put $8.1 million in carryover funds from the previous year in reserve as a hedge against sequestration.


  1. Why dont we just stop paying Virginia if they refuse to fulfill their obligations of supporting us back? Pretty clear cut case in my opinion for why retrocession will benefit NOVA.

  2. I say "NO" to a tax. If we need more funding in the county then stop all the social services to illegals. We are paying millions to pay for illegals to have health care, day care, meals, education, and housing and who knows what else. We can not afford to take care of everyone. This will relieve many of our issues in the county. Take a look at Manassas at how much they are saving each year since they took a stand. I for one will pass the message on to say "NO" to any new taxes. I am tired of paying for everyone else.


  4. Well, I am tired of paying for your roads, and your firefighters, and your police. And I'm even more tired of paying tolls because people are too cheap to pay taxes for services we ALL require. We are the 2nd richest county in the country; time to act like it.

  5. How ignorant are these people who cry No More Taxes but want all the services and benefits that taxes provide. Fairfax County should take over its road system, like Arlington, and become innovative with transportation and roads. The county is getting no money from the state to maintain its roads but our county leaders refuse to admit that and take responsibility for maintaining the roads--they are terrified. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation already has taken over most of the work, but when FCDOT does not want to do anything that would benefit residents they automatically blame VDOT and throw up their hands--its a great way to not take any responsibility.

    Residents must vote for the constitutional amendment removing the right of the County to declare eminent domain. The county especially the Board of Supervisors gives land to developers so that developers will keep supporting them in elections and so the County gets more income. They do not care about the residents who own the property or the surrounding community. Please vote for the proposed constitutional amendment. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, property owners should receive appropriate payment for their land or choose not to sell at all.

  6. We pay some of the lowest taxes in the area, and what do we have to show for it, a worn down County that doesn’t come close to looking like one of the wealthiest counties in the Country. Another words you get what you pay for and what we got is an inept state agency that does not know how to use a mechanical broom. VDOT does not clean; VDOT will never provide good mass transit, VDOT is one big outdated clunker…..VDOT needs to go!

    Given the County’s new demographics that do not believe in cleaning up after themselves, someone needs to and that falls to the County. When one crosses the border from Fairfax to Arlington, Alexandria or Fairfax City, it is like going from a third world country back into the America I love!

    I am willing to pay more taxes, but show me what I get for my money. Is it going to be cleans streets, mowed grass medians that don’t look like the jungles of the South Pacific, good and usable mass transit, better traffic circulation and calming or is it going to pay for some government workers’ pension fund so that he/she can double dip after 55 while the rest of us go broke paying for these entitlements? Another words BOS show me the money and show me results.

    Unfortunately, if the lack of maintenance and local control over our County, infrastructure and laws continues in its present form, Fairfax will end up being a national disgrace. Disgrace Boulevard is where we are going if this County continues to rely on VDOT.

    1. Absolutely brilliantly said.

  7. I am so weary of the tax whiners. Good, efficient services cost money. We all benefit. We should all pay. I have never had any children in the county school system, but good schools are the sign of a smart community. Smart communities realize the importance of investing in education and infrastructure and social services so everyone can flourish. Stop complaining and being so greedy.

  8. These so-called good school systems are overcrowded and the kids in this area especially are having classes in trailers. At Bailey's Elementary, a school built for around a max of 750 kids, they currently have over 1350 enrolled. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are all in trailers. Most of the local schools look like a trailer park versus a quality education system. This is draining our local taxes. Three/Four years ago Manassas took steps to prevent illegals from living there and they all moved to Fairfax County. Manasaas is saving millions of dollars each year from the exodus. "Federation For American Immigration Reform concludes that the unlawful presence of illegal aliens in the Commonwealth costs taxpayers $1.7 billion every year for the costs of providing services, the burden on the criminal justice system, and educating illegal aliens and their children in our school systems." This what Fairfax County could do with the money we could save. Why should I pay more taxes when there is a solution?

  9. The VAST majority of the you get what you pay for are the 47% who pay no income taxes and own no propery and pay no property tax, You'll raise my taxes and have to face a riot. CUT SOCIAL SERVICES - WE DON'T NEED THEM ALL. Our schools are going down as the person comments above.

    Roads to get to our jobs to earn money to pay taxes for all you social service sponges, minimal fire services, and police to protect us, and back to basic schools with disciplne. Anthing above that needs to be looked at - CUT THE GOVT - we do NOT want all the social servies the ignorant poster above says we want. And cut benefits as the poster above says there is HUGE amounts of waste out there. Liberals are like fat pigs at the trough - they always want more!

  10. Sponges and fat pigs? Thanks for raising the level of the conversation.

    Leaving aside the rest of your rant, I'll just note that, renters do pay property tax--only they pay it as a part of their rent to landlords who are responsible for paying the tax. A tax paid by proxy is still paid, however.

  11. Stop saying people want all these government services! Most people want the basics and lower taxes!

  12. To Andrew: The renters do not pay taxes. The owners pay taxes. The owners can be jailed or fined for not paying taxes not the renters. The owners could lose their investment not the renters. The owners took the risk not the renters. If the renters move out they do not need to keep paying the "tax" the owner still owes the tax.

    To add to the last comment made. I agree I do not see a need for this County to have all these service. The majority are not for the citizens who pay the taxes but for the citizens who do not pay taxes (illegals).

  13. Saying renters pay taxes is like saying I pay Giant or Harris Teeters property taxes because I buy food there and they pass the cost on to me. What a simplistic "If you have a didn't build that" comment indicative of the whole mindset. Clueless as to how the real world works and always looking for more like the commenter said about the trough. Sorry if that offends you, but there is some truth in that.