A Step Toward Meeting our Transportation Challenges


  

 

Budget Consideration Item
A Step Toward Meeting our Transportation Challenges
March 20, 2012

           

Madame Chairman,

Fairfax County faces major transportation challenges - not exactly a revelation, I know. It is, however, an issue whose need for a solution grows more urgent every year. For years, decades even, leaders of this County have talked about a growing chasm between transportation needs and the funds available with which to pay for them. Every year since I have been a member of this Board, our transportation staff has outlined for us the problem and ways we can meet it.

Most recently, this occurred at the Board’s retreat in early February when staff provided a detailed analysis of the County’s transportation needs over the next ten years.[I] To meet our needs, they tell us we need an additional $3 billion in transportation funding - over and above that currently provided for with Federal, State, and County funds - just to achieve a reasonable improvement. That’s $300 million a year, or an amount nearly equivalent to ten percent of the County’s general fund.

The problem as it stands now is tremendous. Our roads and transit systems can’t handle the current demand, but because Fairfax County is such a great place to live, we can expect thousands of new residents every year.[II] With that in mind, we must choose either to build and maintain our infrastructure, or accept accelerating decline in our mobility. 

Most importantly, we have to start doing something, and not just keep talking about it.

Therefore, I offer the following preliminary plan as a budget consideration item, for our review and debate during the FY2013 budget process. I recommend this plan be included in our budget guidance document, with implementation to start in the Fall of 2012. The outline of this proposal is as follows:

1)      Effective in FY 2014 (next year), Fund 40, Department of Transportation (which currently funds FCDOT staff as well as some transportation studies and traffic calming measures), be separated out from the General Fund, and supported by transportation-only funds.

To support this move, we would embark on a three-year process to move funds from our Vehicle License Fee out of the County’s General Fund and into this new transportation fund. This would be very much like our current use of the Stormwater Fee, which is also separate from the General Fund.

Since being implemented, the Vehicle License Fee has generated a little more than $27 million per year.[III] One-third of that fee, a little more than $9 million, would go to the new transportation fund, along with the approximately $7 million expenditure in Fund 40.[IV] This would leave a balance of just over $2 million for additional transportation projects in FY 2014. In fiscal years 2015 and 2016, the remainder of the Vehicle License Fee, roughly $9 million each year, would be removed from the General Fund and placed into the transportation fund. Spread this way, the impact on the General Fund would be relatively small and quite manageable. 

2)      Next, I suggest our budget guidance indicate intent from the Board to commit one-half of each year’s unencumbered carry-over funds to transportation.[V] Based on an average of the last five years this would result in approximately $23 million per year in new funding.[VI] This would not be set in stone obviously, as exceptions can and should be made for emergency circumstances. However, if the guidance is taken seriously and followed, it would create over time an expectation of that funding.

This plan is not a panacea and I do not portray it as such. It is a measured first step though, and one that if fully implemented would generate more than $40 million in new money for transportation by FY 2016. This series of ideas points us in a positive direction moving forward and allows us to begin to address the significant transportation challenges we face.       

[III] FY 2013 Advertised Budget Overview Document, Page 68

[IV]FY 2013 Advertised Budget Overview Document, Page 62

[VI]Average of the last 5 Carryovers = $47.45 million

Balance after FY 2011 Commitments: $59.25

(Page 9: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/carryover/fy2011/fy_2011_carryover_package_new1.pdf)

Balance after FY 2010 Commitments $59.19

(Page 3: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/carryover/fy2010/CA_Att_B.pdf)

Balance after FY 2009 Commitments $66.09

(Page 3: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/carryover/fy2009/CA_Att_B.pdf)

Balance after FY 2008 Commitments $22.17

(Page 3: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/carryover/fy2008/CA_Att_B.pdf)

Balance after FY 2007 Commitments $30.56

(Page 3: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/carryover/fy2007/CA_Att_B.pdf)

The “Balance after…” numbers come after only the following three items are taken out: 1) Outstanding Encumbered Obligations, 2) Outstanding Unencumbered Commitments and 3) Managed Reserve Adjustment.

 


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