Chairman Bulova Moves Budget That Cuts Tax Rate
Fiscal Year 2012 Mark-Up Package
April 12, 2011
A Steady Landing
During the years that I’ve served on this board, I’ve noted that each budget has its own “personality.” Some members of this Board can recall the “Doomsday Budgets” of the early and mid-90’s when for the first time in modern history our tax base turned negative.
During the recovery period following, we invested one time Carryover and Third Quarter funds into building up a new Revenue Stabilization Reserve as a hedge against future downturns. We caught up on capital needs for new schools, fire stations, a new police station in the Sully District, and worked with the School Board to begin a phase in of all-day Kindergarten – a phase in that was not completed.
Following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, we enhanced our ability to address Emergency Preparedness with the creation of our Office of Emergency Management and construction of the Elaine McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operation Center facility.
When this current Board took office in the winter of 2008, we did so to the backdrop of a serious nationwide recession with the failure of financial and lending institutions, plummeting property values nationwide, and rising foreclosures and unemployment. Our Board has responded to these Great Recession years by engaging our community and our workforce in the implementation of reorganizational changes, efficiencies and reductions that have allowed us to right-size the cost of services to a vastly reduced revenue stream while maintaining the quality of life Fairfax County residents value.
This budget continues this effort for Fiscal Year 2012.
Over $20 million in reductions are included in the budget we are about to adopt. This is in addition to $180 million in reductions that have been taken during the past two fiscal years. Fairfax County government continues to improve efficiency and streamline the delivery of critical services - the County’s ratio of positions per 1,000 residents is currently 11.34 - a 17% decrease from 20 years ago.
This budget lowers the real estate tax rate for all Fairfax County homeowners. Since our first budget as a Board in Fiscal Year 2009, we have lowered the average homeowner’s tax bill even with the addition of the Stormwater Utility Fee.
This Board has also successfully encouraged economic development as a means of jump starting our economy – through the work of our Economic Advisory Commission and through our actions to bring redevelopment to Tysons Corner, the Springfield Mall area, and other revitalization areas of the county. Evidence of the success of this strategy is the 3.73% increase this year of commercial property values.
When thinking of a theme to this year’s budget, I was reminded of a photo that appeared in the news in January 2009 when a plane made an emergency landing in the Hudson River right off the shore of Manhattan. What could have been a catastrophic disaster was avoided by a cool-headed pilot (Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger) and his crew who assisted passengers out of the plane and onto the wings where they waited in an orderly line for lifeboats to arrive.
While comparing Fairfax County’s response to this decade’s economic downturn to the Hudson River landing may be a stretch, we have averted what could easily have been a severe economic tailspin and have benefitted from some remarkable cool-headed individuals who have worked with this Board and with our community as we begin to see evidence of recovery.
This is Ed Long’s last budget and I would like to publicly thank him for his always steady, enlightened, and insightful handling of Fairfax County’s fiscal matters. He, along with Susan Datta and their talented and able staff, have steered us through two major downturns and helped us to achieve and maintain our status as Best Managed Jurisdiction of our Size in the Nation – even during these rocky times. Thanks also to former Debt Manager Len Wales and of course to County Executive Tony Griffin, who will be steering us through one more budget season before retiring next year. I sincerely thank them and all of our staff for bringing us in for a steady landing.
Some highlights of the Mark-up Package that our Board discussed at our Budget Committee meeting last Friday include:
A Tax Rate of $1.07, a decrease of 2 cents from the Advertised
Rate of $1.09. This rate essentially holds steady the average taxpayer’s
Additional flexibility identified to reduce the tax rate; $4.7 million resulting from the FY 2011 Third Quarter Review, $350,000 from the County Executive’s “Add-On Package,” and $4 million identified by the Auditor to the Board.
$2.3 million included in the County Executive’s Budget for Information Technology Communication Enhancement and for renovations to a fourth courtroom in the Jennings Building is deferred.
Reduce the Personal Property Tax Rate to $0.01 per $100 of assessed value for one vehicle for fully disabled veterans. This is in addition to the real estate tax exemption on the primary residents of fully disabled veterans and their spouse as included in the County Executive’s Add On Proposal. The cost for both of these tax reductions is $3.6 million.
A Reserve of $2.3 million is set aside as a hedge against
potential State and Federal reductions
The School Transfer is maintained at the FY 2011 level with the following exception:
- Consistent with widespread community input the Board strongly supports the School Board’s implementation of the full phase in of Full Day Kindergarten and provides the following assistance toward making that happen:
Savings of $500,000 in the SACC program that would be realized from
implementation of FDK will be added to the School Transfer.
Additional cable funding of $641,904 has been identified for the School’s use that can be used for FDK.
- More flexibility is identified in the $1.9 million in funding for the School Nurse Health Program. This funding would otherwise be sent by the Schools to the County’s Health Department for this purpose but is returned to the School with the flexibility for using it for FDK.
- The School Board has been advised that additional flexibility is allowed in the potential re-prioritization of Cable programming funds.
All County employee compensation has been frozen during the past two fiscal years. In this package, direction is given to the County Executive to analyze the County’s fiscal condition at the end of FY 2011 and based on this review to identity funding to provide County employees with a market-rate adjustment estimated to be 1.12% based on the inflation-based formula advocated for by the EAC and employee unions. This increase would be effective in mid-October.
The Board of Supervisors urges the School Board to treat
compensation adjustments for School employees in a manner that is
equitable to General County employee compensation adjustments.
$1.5 million is included for the Fire and Rescue Department to support an (ALS) Advanced Life Support Incumbent Training. This is necessary to provide adequate levels of certified personnel to support minimum staffing requirements.
As recommended by the Human Services Council, an increase in funding of $1.3 million for high school graduates with Intellectual Disabilities, as well as the Medical Detoxification and the Diversion to Detoxification programs.
$175,000 to provide liability insurance for the Office of the Sheriff recognizing services provided outside of the Office’s state mandate.
$120,000 from the County’s Pest Management Fund for the 4 Poster Program aimed at reducing the occurrence of Lyme disease. This is at no additional cost to the General Fund.
The contribution for the Herndon Visitors Center will be provided directly to the Town of Herndon for tourism-related uses.
Staff has identified existing resources to continue the homeless youth initiative. Staff is also directed to review funding requirements for the Housing Blueprint for FY 2012 and identify flexibility in Fund 319 generated from program income/savings from the Crescent refinancing and grant opportunities and report to a future Housing Committee so that necessary funding adjustments may be addressed at Carryover.
In this package the Board of Supervisors accepts the County Executive’s recommendation that the increased School Bond program of $155 million a year (or $125 million in increased capacity over the 5 period of the CIP) be maintained. Additionally, the Board is supportive of the School’s proposed program for accelerating construction projects in order to take advantage of the favorable construction market by using short-term financing alternatives for energy-related improvements. The savings from this program is anticipated to provide the Schools with additional capacity by as much as $30 million. Approval of the program will come back to this Board.
Board Guidance includes a number of recommendations regarding benefits including a review of our retirement benefits. In conjunction with this, our Board is directing the County Executive to include at the FY2011 Carryover Review funding for a reduction in the Social Security offset from 30% to 25% for service-connected disability retirees in the Uniformed and Employees’ Retirement System and to return to the Board with Code changes needed for implementation.
Additional details can be found within the Mark-up Package and Guidelines attached and were discussed at our Budget Committee Meeting on Friday.
With that, Madam Chairman, I move approval of the separate motions for the FY2011 Third Quarter Review and the FY2012 Mark up.