Archive

Discussion Title Priorities for 2011

Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova will answer your questions online on Friday, Jan. 7, at 2 p.m. about the current state of the county and what residents can expect to see in 2011.


Sharon Bulova : Welcome and thank you all for joining me today on Ask Fairfax! I'm excited to be here today to talk about what's in store for Fairfax County in 2011. Let's get started...


John : Will there be a moratorium on real Estate development in our area? The construction of houses has left us with fewer and fewer green areas. every inch in our county is spoken for by developers. need your leadership to help curb the sprawl and the consequent traffic, diminution of services per person, and diminishing education opportunities for our children. Curb sprawl please. PS: If I wanted to live in New York City I would have moved there.

Sharon Bulova : It is not legally possible for Fairfax County to levy a “moratorium” on building and development. Landowners have a legal right to develop and/or build in accordance with the zoning on their property. I understand your concern about how growth and development takes place. Just as we have grown over the past 50 years, we will continue to grow. It’s important that we not continue the kind of growth that causes the kind of sprawl and environmental problems you have pointed out. As we accommodate new growth, it has never been more important to guide that growth toward areas that can best support it. Using the Transformation of Tysons Corner as our model, we will encourage growth and development toward transit oriented, walkable, mixed-use centers which will be attractive to young residents as well as empty nesters like myself. An existing model of this urban compact development pattern can be found in Reston Town Center, where someone can walk out their door and find shopping, recreation and other amenities within an easy walk. This pattern of growth will protect and preserve our stable older neighborhoods as well. I want to point out that Fairfax County is home to more than 48,000 acres of open space and an additional 40,000 acres of preserved land, which amounts to 35 percent of the entire county. For a breakdown of that land, visit: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/chairman/news/park-land.htm


Anonymous User : What school programs are at risk of being cut in the new budget?

Sharon Bulova : One of the most important investments the County makes in its annual budget is in the Fairfax County Public School system. We provide over half of the County’s $3.3 billion budget to the schools in a lump sum School Transfer. Under the Virginia constitution the Board of Supervisors does not have the authority for “line item” program decisions. That is a responsibility of the elected school board. The Superintendent of Schools released his requested budget yesterday. You can learn about what school programs are recommended to be changed or eliminated by visiting the Schools’ web site at http://www.fcps.edu/news/fy2012.htm


Jeff Q : Improving transportation is simply impossible without getting more of us out of cars and onto public transit. But transit keeps getting trimmed, making it less desirable even for those hardy souls who have learned how to use the complex, multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional system effectively. Do we have any 2011 funds allocated for practical measures to (A) make transit easier to use and (B) convince drivers to ride? Here's one practical idea that I'd like to see implemented ASAP: real-time tracking of Fairfax Connector buses, like Metrobus, Fairfax CUE, DC Connector, and PG County already have. I ride all the time, and I've found that there's a world of difference knowing when several possible buses are *actually* going to show up, allowing me to juggle errands across the Metro area -- but not in Fairfax County -- much more effectively. Making this work would be much more cost-effective than ad campaigns that few pay attention to.

Sharon Bulova : The short answer is yes: making transit more desirable for residents and commuters is a priority for the Board of Supervisors for 2011. We must invest in buses, Metro, VRE and make sure these various modes are connected in a way that creates an efficient system. I am pursuing the addition of bus rapid transit on the 495 Beltway HOT Lanes in 2011. Several years ago the Board adopted a commercial tax called the Commercial and Industrial tax that can be used only for transportation improvements. A significant amount of this fund is being used for enhancing transit in Fairfax County. Thanks to the passage of last year’s transportation bond referendum, more funding is available for our contribution toward Metro improvements.


Anonymous User : The county often boasts about tree canopy goals. Yet I drive around and see massive swaths of mature trees demolished to build yet another strip shopping center. Nutley and 29. MetroWest project. Telegraph Road. Hotlanes. How can you say there's a goal to have a large tree canopy when all of these land use decisions render mature trees useless? It's not like mature forests are being planted to replace these trees. Thank you for your insight.

Sharon Bulova : Currently, 40 percent of Fairfax County is covered by tree canopies. Our 30 year tree canopy goal calls for an increase in planting across the county in order to increase that coverage to 45 percent by 2037. While I understand your concern over tree removal in commercial areas, it’s actually planting in residential neighborhoods that will have the most impact on tree canopies in Fairfax County. For more information on how you can help us meet our tree canopy goal, visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/environmental/30year.htm Fairfax County is experiencing an unprecedented amount of transportation construction. The Board of Supervisors was able to get the General Assembly to include tree replacement and reforestation goals as part of the HOT lanes project. An arborist is currently working with volunteer organizations in Fairfax County to meet landscaping and reforestation goals.


Frank : Thanks for opening up the discussion, Chairman Bulova. How do you feel about Delegate LeMunyon's legislation to allow county supervisors to veto future toll increases? http://www.loudountimes.com/index.php/news/article/state_legislators_aims_to_prevent_toll_road_rate_increases898/

Sharon Bulova : Fairfax County did not request the bill as part of our legislative package. While I agree with the intent of Del. LeMunyon's bill to keep tolls affordable for our motorists, I share MWAA's concern that this has the potential of damaging the marketability of the bonds and, therefore, jeopardize the financing of the Dulles Rail project.


Anonymous User : What are the real odds that the county will take over roads from the state?

Sharon Bulova : Essentially, all roads in Fairfax County are maintained by the state. The prospect of taking over the maintenance and operation of the roads would be extraordinarily expensive. While we would like to improve on the maintenance and have more control over operation, we need to be very careful about the cost implications of doing so for our taxpayers. County staff presented an initial analysis of the proposal, and we have asked for a more in depth look at the options we discussed. The General Assembly has not provided sufficient funding to maintain the roads at a level that our constituents expect. Taking over the roads at this point would be equivalent the car being run out gas, failing its safety inspections, and being rolled into the driveway for us to take over.


Philip B. : Can you give us an update on the BRAC Mark Center site and traffic concerns? Is the county actively involved in traffic mitigation plans? Is there any chance of funding (from Federal, Alexandria, Arlington, and/or Fairfax) for improved highway access? (My own 2 cents... DOD should commit that 90% of Pentagon Annex parking will be reserved for those who work non-standard hours and don't commute between 7-9am or 4-6pm)

Sharon Bulova : I have been actively involved in discussions regarding the BRAC Marc Center site in Alexandria. This is a location that Fairfax County strongly opposed. That having been said, the building is up and employees will soon be moving in. I am working with my state and federal colleagues, as well my counterparts in Alexandria and Arlginton, to identify transportation improvements to help people get in and out of the new site. In November, I hosted a community meeting with Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross to identify ways to protect County neighborhoods from traffic and parking associated with the Marc Center. We agreed to establish a task force of citizens that will identify measures to alleviate traffic in both Fairfax County and Alexandria once the Marc Center is in operation.


AC Chen : I live less than two miles from Tysons Corner in Vienna. There are no safe ways to either walk there or ride my bike. Considering the large population that works and visits the commercial area surrounding Tysons, that seems to be a real shame.

Sharon Bulova : County staff continues to engage with stakeholders (particularly people like you) to conduct the Tysons Metro Station Access Management Study (TMSAMS). Once complete, the study will identify the most effective ways to connect the bike and pedestrian trails that are part of the redevelopment of Tysons Corner to the surrounding neighborhoods allowing people to safely get in and out of Tysons on foot or on their bike. We feel it’s critical to the success of mixed-use developments that they be walkable and bikeable, which will relieve congestion and protect the environment. For more information on the County’s Bicycle Master Plan, visit: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/bike/county_bike_master_plan.htm The Bicycle Master Plan encompasses a 3-mile radius from the Tysons Metro stations.


Anna Jensen : What is the likelihood that certain schools will be redistricted based on the newest census number?

Sharon Bulova : School boundaries are not related to the redistricting process we are conducting as a result of the 2010 Census. The County's redistricting process is required in order to even up the population in each of the Magisterial districts. School boundary adjustments deal with school population and those boundaries are set by the elected school board.


Anonymous User : Why does it take the supervisors three hours to begin the real business at your meetings? Honoring people is nice, but it's a nice-to-have that shouldn't take forever. I'd rather you use my tax dollars and debate/discuss issues of real importance.

Sharon Bulova : Fairfax County is an amazing place, and we have an extremely engaged community. With such a large and diverse population, it is important to recognize the achievements of Fairfax County residents and our Board will continue to do that at every opportunity. I have been working with my colleagues over the last several weeks to streamline the recognition portion of the Board meetings.


AJR : Does the County have an independent office or individual who examines each and everything the County does and asks good management questions like, 'Why is the County doing this?' 'What does it cost the taxpayers?' 'Does the cost justify the benefit?' 'Is there another cheaper way to do this?' In the last budget cycle the department heads were asked to present ways to reduce their costs. This is not enough as each will protect their own turfs.

Sharon Bulova : About 10 years ago, the Board of Supervisors established an auditor to the Board, which essentially performs the tasks you described. This is a small office that works through a Board Audit Committee, which is comprised of four Supervisors and two appointed citizens. Over the years, this office has saved the County millions of dollars by identifying efficiencies and cost savings. This is in addition to a Department of Internal Audit which reports to the County Executive.


Marcus Simon : What sort of trends are you expecting to see with Real Estate Values in the county? I've read recently that the Washington Area is actually seeing some price appreciation. Do you expect to see that reflected in our assessments? If so, will that help the budget situation?

Sharon Bulova : The County Executive will release his advertised budget in late February. At that time, we will have more information about the value of real estate in Fairfax County. Currently, we are seeing a modest increase in the value of residential property in the County - about 2.4%. However, commercial real estate value is continuing to decline although not as steeply as in 2010. This very modest increase in value coupled with required expenses in health care and benefits result in a projected shortfall of about $50 million. We are still not out of the woods.


Anonymous User : I just saw on the news that the School Superintendent has proposed a 2% salary increase for teachers in his proposed budget. What are your general thoughts on this and do you support salary increases for county employees?

Sharon Bulova : Fairfax County has been dealing with the worst economic downturn in most of our lifetimes. For the past two years we have held compensation for all County employees at the 2009 level. It's important to maintain fairness and equity among our workforce. Currently, we are projecting a $50 million shortfall for FY2012. If we were to attempt to resume compensation increases as usual for all County employees it would increase that shortfall by $107 million - $74 million for the school employees and $33 million for County employees. The budget cycle is just beginning, and compensation will be just one of many important issues that we will face when we adopt a spending plan for next year.


Sharon Bulova : Thank you all so much for joining me today. We had some excellent questions, and only so much time. I look forward to doing this again. Next Thursday (Jan. 13), I will be giving my State of the County address here at the Government Center. The address will be posted online and air on Channel 16. For more information, and to sign up for my newsletter, email me at chairman@fairfaxcounty.gov.

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