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2016 Bond Referendums: Parks, Human Services & Transportation Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

2016 Bond Referendums: Parks, Human Services & Transportation

On Nov. 8, voters may vote "yes" or "no" on parks and human services bonds. Learn more about how the county plans to use the money for parks, human services and transportation if approved by voters. Submit questions in advance and join us online Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 11 a.m. to discuss.


Brian Worthy : Good morning. Thank you for joining our chat about the three bond questions on the Nov. 8 ballot. To answer your questions today, we'll be joined by Fairfax County Park Authority Director Kirk Kincannnon, Lloyd Tucker from the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, and Brian Worthy from the Office of Public Affairs.


Anonymous User : Are these separate from the meals tax question on the ballot? What's the difference?

Brian Worthy :

Yes, they are different referendums. If approved by voters, the three individual bond questions will pay for improvements to  county and regional parks, county community centers, homeless shelters, and fund the county’s contribution to Metro’s Capital Improvement Program. For more detail information, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bond, and read the informational brochure available in multiple languages.

The meals tax question asks voters to allow the Board of Supervisors to impose a 4 percent meals tax on certain prepared foods, which would be paid by residents, commuters and tourists. If the majority of voters approve the meals tax, the Board of Supervisors would dedicate the revenues to two purposes, which are specified in the ballot question. First, 70 percent of the net revenues would be dedicated to Fairfax County Public Schools. Second, 30 percent of the net revenues would be dedicated to county services, capital improvements and property tax relief. For more information, please visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/mealstax.


Anonymous User : How exactly will the money be used beyond the 3 general categories listed? What specific projects will be funded?

Brian Worthy :

By law, the bond monies may not be used for any purpose other than what’s specified in the referendum question. In other words, parks bonds may not be used to finance other projects, such as transportation projects. For more details on our current plans for using the bonds—if approved by voters—read the informational brochure at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bond. In brief, however, the transportation bonds ($120 million) are planned to fund the county’s contribution to Metro’s Capital Improvement Program. The human services bonds are planned for replacing the Sully Senior Center and building a new Lorton Community Center ($37 million). The human services bonds also will be used to renovate, expand or replace four emergency shelters for people who are homeless ($48 million): Patrick Henry, Embry Rucker, Eleanor Kennedy, and Bailey’s. The $107 million parks bonds are planned for improvements and facilities identified in a study the Fairfax County Park Authority recently conducted to evaluate the county’s recreational needs over the next 10 years, as well as pay for the county’s contribution to Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s Capital Improvement Program.


Anonymous User : 1) When will real time bus tracking be available for Fairfax County buses ? We've been told for many many years that "its coming". Loudoun county has released real time tracking software for their buses. 2) Need more walkways for pedestrians, especially near the metro stations and bus stops. This becomes a real hazard in winter when it gets dark early or when it snows. 3) Need more street lights - this is especially critical in the mornings and evening rush hour in fall and winter. Drivers can't even see the pedestrians because streets like Wiehle Ave gets so dark.

Brian Worthy :

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation and Fairfax Connector staff are currently working to finalize the testing of the real time bus information system – to be called Fairfax Connector Bus Tracker. The launch is expected in the next couple of months. Thorough testing is important as we want the system to work correctly and in the best way possible for our Fairfax Connector riders. Thank you also for your feedback on the need for more walkways and street lights in Tysons. We will forward your feedback to both VDOT and our FCDOT staff working on these type of project in Tysons currently, and to our planning staff for future development considerations.


Maura : Regarding the bond to construct the Lorton Community Center, is there a proposed location for this project at this time? Is anyone considering using land that is part of the Laurel Hill/Lorton Prison redevelopment project? It seems like this is the kind of thing that could have been included in the proffer by the developers of this valuable land owned by the county. It would also fill a need for public recreation and gathering space in the far south county area.

Lloyd Tucker : Thank you for your question and for highlighting the importance of utilizing existing county land resources and leveraging developers. The proposed location for the Lorton Community Center construction is behind the Lorton Library on county-owned property. This site was identified in the county's Feasibility Study.


Maura : The listed inclusions for projects funded by the park bond referendum include "Park Development at Laurel Hill Park." Is there any more detailed information on this development? Our family lives nearby and we are frequent users of this park, which has been really decimated by the widening of Lorton Road and development of Workhouse Road. Hundreds and hundreds of trees were felled, and much open space and land has been taken. We are very interested to know how the park will be developed now.

Kirk Kincannon : Thank you for this question.  Laurel Hill provides wonderful opportunities for recreation as well as cultural exploration.  Regarding your inquiry, the notation about park development at Laurel Hill includes: repurposing an existing former prison building for special events, programs and planned activities. Further planning and design will include public outreach and information dissemination.

We understand your concerns regarding the impacts from construction of the roads.  The project will repair and include new trail connections mitigating damage caused by the widening project.  Lorton Road project includes sidewalks and bike lanes throughout its entirety that will improve pedestrian and biker safety.

In addition, the Lorton Road project improved access to the equestrian center.  It also improved drainage at the historic barrel bridge. For more information about the Laurel Hill master plan visit this link:  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/laurelhill/


Paula N. : If the bonds are approved, does that mean our tax rate will go up so we can pay the interest?

Brian Worthy :

The bond program is designed NOT to contribute to an increase in your tax rate.

Fairfax County has adopted a prudent financial management policy designed to protect its triple-A bond rating. Under the program, the county’s net long-term debt is not to exceed 3 percent of the total market value of taxable real and personal property in the county. It also provides that annual debt service (the cost of principal and interest payments) be kept below 10 percent of annual combined general fund disbursements, and that bond sales shall not exceed an average principal amount of $275 million per year or $1.375 billion over five years.

For FY 2017, the county’s projected actual net long-term debt is 1.19 percent of the market value of all taxable real and personal property. Debt service costs in FY 2017 are projected to be 8.32 percent of the combined general fund disbursements. The FY 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Program adopted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on April 19, 2016, anticipates issuance of an average of $275 million of general obligation bonds per year. Of this amount, approximately $155 million (56 percent) is for the Fairfax County Public Schools and $120 million (44 percent) is for the county. This policy is expected to keep debt service at approximately 9 percent of general fund disbursements, which will maintain a balance between operating expenses and long-term capital needs.


Andrew Riffle : I have 2 questions about the transportation in our county. The first is about the Fairfax Connector. Most of the lines only run until 8 PM, and never on the weekends. It's really hard to get around without a car. Are there any plans to expand bus availability and who can I contact/what can I do to help push for this? Second, WMATA and the metro have become atrocious lately. Just last night took me 3 hours to get from Metro Center back home to Vienna because of single tracking on orange line and complete shutdown of almost all of the Silver line. What can be done about this? I depend on the metro to get to work every day and it seems like we're just told to eat it and they're so very sorry when there's problems. I have done some research and understand that WMATA's funding is complex to say the least, but how can our tax dollars be used to force more accountability from WMATA? What can I personally do besides vent about it on social media? Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, I really hate driving and don't want to be another car congesting the roadways but county transit and WMATA are leaving me with few choices.

Brian Worthy :

Thank you for your questions! We appreciate the feedback on Fairfax Connector service; we will pass it onto our Connector planning staff and you can also submit comments via email at fairfaxconnector@fairfaxcounty.gov. What it comes to Metrorail service, WMATA welcomes feedback from riders; you can contact them directly and submit your feedback at http://wmata.custhelp.com/app/home/.   We are very sorry for the Metrorail delays you are experiencing during the SafeTrack work program.  The SafeTrack program is completing three years of maintenance work in one year to maintain safety and improve reliability of the Metrorail system.  Once SafeTrack is complete this spring, Metro plans to go back to a more normal and regular maintenance schedule.  This bond issue will allow Fairfax County to fund its share of the Capital Improvement Plan which includes this maintenance. 


Brian Worthy : Thanks for the great questions, and we've enjoyed chatting with you. We're now ending our chat for this morning.

Please visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bond for more information about the three bond questions on the ballot.