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Discussion Title Proposed FY 2017 Budget Chat with the County Executive

County Executive Ed Long will discuss his proposed FY 2017 budget on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m. Submit a question online or log on and ask questions about his proposal live.


Joseph Mondoro : Good afternoon. Unfortunately County Executive Long can't be here today. This is Joe Mondoro, Chief Financial Officer, and I will be here to answer your questions on the budget. We appreciate you taking the time to submit questions on the budget. As you know, the process has just begun and we have a lot of opportunity for community engagement before the Board ultimately makes their decision in April.

For information on how to provide input, visit

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/many-ways-to-provide-your-input-on-the-fy-2017-budget/


Minh Tran : Dear Mr. Long, Would Fairfax County consider having public safety mobile apps for the county in 2016? 911 Help SMS A software built to help the 911 dispatch center and police department locate cell phone users who are indoors and outdoors with higher accuracy than GPS or cell tower triangulation. In an active shooter scenario, this software can locate students in each classroom. The FCC and APCO are aware of this project. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id798026644?mt=8 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cabmatch.help911&hl=en Police Connect A software that allows citizens to report suspicious activities (terrorism prevention) and submit anonymous crime tips. Citizens can also receive important alerts through the software. The police department will know the location of the caller if they call the police department. https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/id1028897055?mt=8 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fix311.police&hl=en Ready311 A software that allows citizens to report county wide issues to different departments in the county (potholes, defective streetlights, etc). Citizens can also receive important alerts through the software. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id534963385?mt=8 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fix311&hl=en Campus Ready A software for students to report suspicious behavior (active shooter prevention), bullying, sexual misconduct, drug dealing, suicide prevention, and other school related issues. The safe walk feature allows parents to track student movements in real time. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id942553695?mt=8 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fix311.campusandroid&hl=en Sincerely, Minh Tran

Joseph Mondoro :

Thanks for this suggestion.  We will pass this information on to our Department of Public Safety Communications so that they consider it in their strategies to continue to improve the 911 service in our community.


Marilyn Geer Rivera : Did the board look at ways to cut back on spending in other places? Did they look at programs that can be more cost effective, did they look at their vehicle maintenance, at their phone plans, at their internet costs, at building maintenance, at possibly installing solar energy onto their buildings and into schools to reduce the electric bills, there are so many ways to save money, sometimes its better to have an outside person review the budgets and look for these cost savings as people can defensive about their spending habits. But I want to know that these measures have taken place and I want to see proof of these measures as a way of providing accountability for ones actions.

Joseph Mondoro :

As the county executive said during his presentation on the budget, the County – like Schools – has made significant reductions over the past number of years – over $300 million and 700 positions on the County side alone.  (For a list of all reductions taken from FY 2010 through FY 2016, please visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/budget-reductions.htm.) 

As you can see from this list, there are efficiencies related to energy costs, printing, and building maintenance, as well as provision of services.  For the FY 2017 budget, staff has identified a number of efficiencies that total almost $14 million.  These are discussed in the county executive's summary of the budget at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/fy2017/advertised/overview/07_executive_summary.pdf. 

We are constantly asking for suggestions on how to provide our services more efficiently, including a rigorous exercise last year to solicit input from employees throughout the organization, looking at both their own agencies and other parts of the County.  This year, we have initiated the Lines of Business (LOBs) exercise which is designed to both educate the Board and community on the services we provide and solicit input on areas for review for efficiencies.  If you have not had a chance, please visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/2016-lines-of-business.htm to review the Lines of Business and provide your comments, as well as take the LOBs survey.


Dawn Roddy : Why a property tax increase, why not a sales tax increase?

Joseph Mondoro :

The local option Sales Tax – which directly benefits the County – is already at the maximum 1 percent as allowed by Virginia law.  The County cannot increase this tax without enabling legislation from the state. This is an example of the many revenues received by the county which are controlled by the state.


Concerned Parent : How will the county ensure that the schools get a fully funded budget? And how is it that all other county services received an increase in funds, except for the schools?

Joseph Mondoro : The recommendation made by the county executive last week includes increases for both county services and the school transfer. The increase for schools includes a 3 percent (or $55 million) increase to the school operating budget, a $13 million increase for infrastructure and funds school debt service. On the county side, increases are recommended for employee compensation, public safety staffing and human service priorities, among other things.

In addition, there is an unallocated balance of $23 million of flexibility for the Board of Supervisors as they begin their deliberations on the FY 2017 budget. These recommendations assume a 4 cent increase in the real estate tax rate.

The School Board request is $68 million more than the county executive's recommendation. The discussions about the school budget that will occur over the next two months will focus on options for county funding and the prospects for additional state funding as the state budget process unfolds.


Wtp : Why does Ed Long claim reductions as the budget grows?

Joseph Mondoro : The county budget, like the school budget, usually reflects an increase from year to year. However, both budgets have seen significant reductions in existing funding. In addition, increases associated with employee pay and infrastructure investment have not been included in prior year budgets as the Board balanced available resources with the community's priorities.


Anonymous User : How does the state budget affect our county budget? I'm confused by statements like "Under the Senate plan, teachers would get a 2 percent pay raise effective in December; under the budgets advanced by McAuliffe and the House, that pay raise would start in July 2017", doesn't the Fairfax Board of Supervisors decide how much money the county and FCPS gets? I remember reading one year that the state decided that all CSB staff were suppose to get a raise but I didn't see that happen, can the state dictate salary raises for county employees?

Joseph Mondoro :

Unfortunately, the state budget cycle and the County budget cycle are not exactly parallel.  As a result, both the School budget and the County budget are released prior to state decisions on funding that will flow to each of us.  We make assumptions about what funding will be available and the Board and County staff work very hard to maximize the funding that the County and Schools receive.  For the example you cite, the funding in the Governor’s budget would partially offset the costs of raises that would be put in place by the School Board. 

It is the School Board that makes decisions regarding funding for teachers, using the resources provided by the County and the state. 


Patti M. : Why won't the Fairfax County government make the educational programs and learning environments of their students a priority and do everything possible to work with FCPS by providing the requested funds that support the growing numbers and diversity of it's populace as well as compensate school personnel?

Joseph Mondoro :

It is important to recognize that Fairfax County contributes approximately 52% to 53% of its General Fund budget every year to Fairfax County Public Schools.  This funding levels equates to approximately 70% of the total School Operating Budget.  This demonstrates the lack of state funding provided to the County’s schools.  The County’s level of funding for schools clearly indicates the priority that the County gives to FCPS.  That said, the growth in enrollment and changes in student demographics, as well as requirements for teacher pay continue to grow at a faster rate than our revenue.  Each year, the county's budget recommendation, and ultimately the Board’s decision, needs to balance the tax burden on our residents with the need to meet the service levels, not only for schools, but also for public safety, human services, libraries, and all of the other services that the County provides.


Bill Percaan : How many people work at the animal shelter?

Joseph Mondoro : A total of 66 positions support animal services for the county. They are supplemented by a significant number of volunteers at the shelter. For more budget information about the animal shelter and the rest of animal services, please visit

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/fy2017/advertised/volume1/90.pdf.

The animal shelter is part of the police department and a table listing the staff positions can be found on page 206.


Arthur Purves : How many applicants are there for each county job opening?

Joseph Mondoro : The number of applicants vary for individual job listings. Just as important as the number of applicants, however, is how qualified they are for the jobs for which they are applying. Depending on the market for individual jobs, we may have more difficulty recruiting successful candidates.

Additionally, the county works hard to develop existing staff to promote from within.


Christie Johnson : What other options is the Board of Supervisors exploring to increase revenue not just from taxes? What efforts are being made to reduce our commercial vacancy rate for example?

Joseph Mondoro :

The county routinely reviews our existing fees and makes adjustments as appropriate. For example, School Age Child Care fees are recommended to increase in the FY 2017 budget.

In terms of the commercial vacancy rate, the current office market is very challenging. On one hand, we are seeing significant interest in the new, high-quality office space in Tysons and Reston along the Silver Line as you note. This is positive and is part of the reason why we are seeing positive commercial values in FY 2017 for the first time in two years.  At the same time, the high vacancy rate is of concern. The County has put together a group to look at creative uses of older buildings that are farther away from transit that have been vacated by traditional office workers. One example of this creative use is an independent school repurposing an office building just outside the beltway in Tysons. The most important factor in filling the vacant space, however, is job growth. And while the most recent data shows some improvement, until we see steady and sustained improvements, the vacancy rate will likely remain high.


Deborah Johnson : What is the percentage range of property tax increase that you anticipate the BOS will consider in order to pay for the increases in your proposed budget?

Joseph Mondoro : I'm not sure what the Board will decide after all their deliberations on the budget. At this point in the process, they are considering what rate to advertise. Based on Virginia code, they can go lower than the rate they advertise, but they cannot set the tax rate at a higher level. The Board will make a decision about what rate to advertise at their meeting on March 1.  


Terry Redican : What is the barrier to changing the tax rate to fully fund Dr Karen Garza's submitted budget? We live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation - for a reason. Don't be part of the government that takes off the path of continued prosperity. Please do what it takes to find the funds to support the Dr Garza's submitted budget.

Joseph Mondoro : It's important to recognize that while we are one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, not all of our residents fall into this category. This includes significant numbers of senior citizens on fixed incomes. The Board's decisions each budget year reflect a balance of the community's priorities and the impact of the tax burden on all of our residents.

In terms of the community's priorities, there also is a balance between issues like transportation, public safety, human services and schools that needs to be attained. The budget process each year provides the community opportunity to express their opinions about these various priorities to help inform the Board's ultimate decision.


Frustrated Teacher : Why is there such a discrepancy in pay between the local school systems? For example,does Arlington County, where a teacher with the same years of experience earns approximately $20,000 more per year, receive more funding from the state? Are their taxes different? I am trying to figure out why our county seems to constantly struggle with finding the money we need while neighboring counties do not.

Joseph Mondoro : There are many factors that impact the individual budgets of localities and school districts. For example, in Arlington there is a much higher percentage of commercial property, which typically has a much smaller impact on county and school services. As a result, in Fairfax County a greater portion of the burden to fund services falls on the homeowner. In addition, the state funding formulas for education vary and as a result the local portion of education funding is different, certainly between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state, but also among the Northern Virginia jurisdictions. 

For example, even when you look at our neighbor in Prince William, the percentage for their school budget that they receive from the state is significantly higher than what we receive. 

It's important to recognize that, in fact, many if not most jurisdictions do grapple with many of the same budget issues that we do here.


Anonymous User : The line of business review doesn't seem to have resulted in any cost savings to the county. At the same time, demand for increased county resources for schools is at an all-time high. What is the county doing to improve the results from the LOB process?

Joseph Mondoro : We are only a little more than halfway through the first phase of the LOBs process and are currently keeping track of potential long-term issues. The Board has not yet identified specific projects that we'll be working on as part of phase two.

To clarify, the way we designed the LOBs process this time, was that this first phase was the educational
opportunity to provide detailed information to the Board and present what it is we do. The second phase will involve the board providing direction about specific projects they want County staff to look at in more detail. It is likely that opportunities for savings will be identified from these projects.


Rick Johannsen : Am I correct in understanding that the budget recommended to the BOS by the County Executive includes a $.03/$100 property tax increase and that even with that .03 increase there would be a $67 million gap between what FCPS has requested and what the BOS would provide to FCPS? If yes, how much more would the property tax need to be increased to provide the $67 million?

Joseph Mondoro : The budget actually includes a 4 cent real estate tax increase and funds a 3 percent transfer increase to the school operating fund. In addition, this 4 cent increase results in a balance of $23 million to provide flexibility to the Board as they consider options including how to address the $68 million gap with the school request. Each additional penny on the real estate tax rate generates $23 million. At the same time, each penny results in an increase of $53 to the average residential taxpayer.


Anonymous User : Why aren't the schools and the county all under one salary system? The resulting bickering over salaries and who gets what is depressing. The county has different types of pay systems to allow for fire/police; why is there an entirely different board/system for the schools?

Joseph Mondoro :

The Fairfax County Public Schools and County Government are two separate entities. However, the Board of Supervisors and the School Board could certainly consider mirroring the pay systems for the groups of employees who have similar jobs across the two entities.  It's important to note that the Board of Supervisors would continue to control County pay increases while the School Board would make decisions on School pay increases. 


Liz Holzapfel : Describe your view of the relationship between the success of FCPS and the economy of Fairfax County. Are you concerned about the erosion of both?

Joseph Mondoro : There is a clear link between the high quality schools in the county and the county's economy. Employers look for a highly educated workforce, as well as high-quality education opportunities for the children of their employees. This has translated into the Board of Supervisors consistently allocating between 52 and 53 percent of the general fund budget to the county schools, as well as funding services in the county budget that directly support schools, such as school resource officers, school health staff and crossing guards.


Joseph Mondoro : Thank you for taking the time to submit your questions. Hopefully this discussion was helpful. Again, the budget process will continue over the next two months. I would encourage you to take a look at all of the information available at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/county-executive-proposes-3-99-billion-budget-fiscal-year-begins-july-1-2016/. This outlines the full timeline for the rest of the budget process, including budget meetings in your community and public hearings to testify before the Board of Supervisors.

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