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Discussion Title Proposed FY 2016 Budget Chat with the County Executive

County Executive Ed Long will discuss his proposed FY 2016 budget on Friday, Feb. 20 at 11 a.m.


Edward Long : Welcome. I look forward to your questions on the FY 2016 and FY 2017 multiyear budget plan as we begin our deliberations that will result in adopting a budget at the end of April.


Anonymous User : What is the estimated reduction in BPOL tax revenues attributable to the Nielsen case in FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017? Are you proposing to increase BPOL rates to offset the reduced amount of revenue subject to taxation? Also, what are the estimated refund claims that the county expects to receive in FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017 for prior taxable years?

Edward Long : In January the Virginia Supreme Court ruled on a BPOL case involving Arlington County, remanding the case back to the Circuit Court and confirming a methodology for apportionment as put forth by the state tax commissioner. This ruling will impact the entire state of Virginia, including Fairfax County. The case provides a methodology for apportioning gross receipts by locality for those corporations operating on multi-state or multi-national levels. We are currently assessing the short-term and long-term impact of this and will report back to the Board of Supervisors as information becomes available.


Arthur Purves : Last year, how many applications were there for every job opening

Edward Long : In calendar year 2013, the county received 232,358 applications for all county positions. The 2014 data is currently being compiled and will be available at a later date.


Arthur Purves : How many county employees resign due to inadequate salary?

Edward Long : Fairfax County does not currently compile this data.  An exit survey pilot was completed, and the survey is being expanded countywide so more data will be available at a later date.


Don Green : I am confused about the priority of funding employee raises. I thought that the agreement was that MRA would be funded first, then as much as possible of the performance increase. Your proposed budget funds 100% of the performance increase and only 50% of the MRA.

Edward Long : The new pay structure which was developed with input from employee groups, staff, and the Board of Supervisors is intended to provide more predictable and also sustainable pay increases.  The decision to fully fund performance increases for general county employees and merits for public safety employees first is due in part to the fact that while general county employee performance increases could be reduced to address budget concerns, there is no way to similarly reduce public safety merit increases due to the grade and step structure.  It was determined that first reducing the MRA would provide the greatest consistency across employee groups.


Anonymous User : We should cancel school tomorrow friday, february 20th, 2015

Edward Long : Fairfax County Public Schools are closed today!


Anonymous User : If the commercial office vacancy rate is so high, then how will all of the office towers planned for Tysons thrive?

Edward Long : With the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line and the planned opening of the second phase of the Silver Line in 2018, there has been a lot of developer interest in locating near the new subway line. While office vacancy rates remain high in the region, it appears that Tysons and Reston are creating a buzz and are attracting developers' interest. On March 3, the Board of Supervisors will be adopting a strategic economic plan. This plan looks at diversifying and jumpstarting the county's economy.


Pat : What do you think about the fact that only a few hundred people provide feedback on a $7 billion budget in a county with a population of 1 million? To me that feels like the community isn't really involved though maybe you have a different take? Not that people choosing to not participate is your fault but I'm curious about your perspective.

Edward Long : Public hearings are only one way in which county residents can participate in the budget process. There are many opportunities to provide feedback. Here are some of the ways we encourage the community to participate: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news/2015/2015-5-ways-budget.htm. Based on our interactions with the community, we feel that the community is well informed and satisfied with county services.


Vance D. : not citing a specific case, but in general how does a potential lawsuit payout factor into the budget? For example, how has the county paid for previous million dollar settlements?

Edward Long : As with any expense in local government budgets, estimates are made and included annually based on trends and prior experience for all operating categories, of which litigation is one. Litigation expenses are a very insignificant portion of the county's budget.


Anonymous User : It seems every year lately has had a budget deficit (like many jurisdictions) and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. When do you see the forecast turning around for the better?

Edward Long : Since we are so dependent on the federal government, stability in the federal budget is key to stabilizing the local economy. If Congress would end sequestration and approve a long-term budget plan, the local economy should react in a very positive way since a high level of uncertainty results in companies deferring expansion and job growth. Because this is a regional phenomenon, I believe it is going to take a few years before this situation improves significantly. Diversification of the local economy is essential and adoption of the county's economic strategic plan by the Board of Supervisors on March 3 is a critical step in positioning the county to take advantage of economic opportunities as they come along.


Mike DeLoach : Is there still a possibility that a local sales tax could be implemented to take the place of the property taxes and ensure that everyone who lives in the county is paying their fair share and not just those of us who own homes here?

Edward Long : We have a local sales tax that represents approximately $176 million dollars or 5% of the county's budget.


Anonymous User : Can you explain the decision process behind not raising propriety taxes? A lot of the county costs go up faster than inflation because there are no productivity gains to be had (teaching, policing, etc) so revenue has to go up generally...so why not this year?

Edward Long : One of the most difficult responsibilities the Board of Supervisors has is adopting a budget. The board must take into consideration all the needs of the community and reach the proper balance between the level of services provided and the taxes used to pay for those services. It is a difficult task with all of the competing needs in the community, made especially challenging with the lagging economy. Unlike the federal government, the Board of Supervisors must approve a balanced budget each year. This year, due to rising assessments, the average county homeowner will pay approximately $185 more even at the current rate of $1.09.


Anonymous User : Mr. Long: Can you estimate the difference in tax payments to the county when Exxon leaves Merrifield and when Inova takes over? I understand it's a good thing in general, but I'm curious how the revenue might play out for the county coffers. Thanks.

Edward Long : Based on the lease structure of the agreement between Exxon Mobile and Inova, it is not anticipated that the county will lose any real estate taxes over the next five years. How the site is used in the future will determine what activities might be taxable and which ones might be tax-exempt.


Mike D : In various positions I have held in the county I have come into contact with individuals who moved here from other area jurisdictions because our benefits for the unemployed or unemployable are better. How can we prevent that and ensure that residents are receiving these benefits and that it's not just a "Build it and they will come" situation?

Edward Long : Fairfax County does not determine unemployment benefits since they are set by the state.


County resident : In a recent email, Chairman Bulova alluded to a possible review of all County agencies and departments for strategic reorganization. I applaud this idea as it may save additional money, create new job opportunities or skills for existing employees, and promote better communication between different agencies. Is this idea truly coming into fruition?

Edward Long : As part of the FY 2017 budget development, the county is undertaking a Lines of Business review, which will look at all county programs and services. This could include reorganizations as we evaluate the most efficient means of providing services. The review will focus on the metrics of county programs to determine if they are run effectively and efficiently in producing the desired outcomes. After reviewing all county programs, the next challenge will be to develop a sustainable financial plan to support those programs and services that the Board feels are the highest priority.


Edward Long : We are out of time and I appreciate all of your questions. I encourage everyone to stay involved in the budget process and provide your comments to the Board of Supervisors so they can make the best decisions possible when they adopt the budget at the end of April.

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