|The slogan for school funding advocates.|
(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.