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County Budget Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

County Budget

Deputy County Executive Ed Long answered your questions about the county's budget after he recently presented the FY2012-FY2014 budget forecast. While home values are up for the first time in five years, the county still faces a multimillion dollar shortfall and the future of the local economy is uncertain.

Edward Long : I want to welcome everybody this afternoon to talk about the county budget. This will be my 33rd budget in Fairfax County, and each budget brings its own unique challenges. I encourage everybody to visit or host your own budget workshop using the Do-It-Yourself toolkit at I look forward to answering as many questions as I can during the next hour.

Anonymous User : With the Department of Defense planning major cuts to defense contractor spending, how will this impact Fairfax County's budget? Is it possible that lots of contractors will go out of business, leaving many commercial buildings empty in Tysons or the Dulles area?

Edward Long : Defense department contracts are a major component of the Northern Virginia economy. In Fairfax County alone in 2008, federal procurement contracts totaled $17 billion. Since this is such a large component of the local economy, we are quite concerned about the discussion of cutbacks in federal contracts. We will monitor this closely to determine what the effect is on county revenues.

Anonymous User : what are the areas we are expecting budget cut?

Edward Long : As we approach the FY 2012 budget, all areas of the budget will be reviewed. With every budget, there are some fixed costs such as contracts, utilities, etc. However, after multiple years of reducing expenditures, every item in the budget has to be reviewed annually to make sure it is in line with long-term sustainable goals of the county.

Marc : You are well aware that County employees are wondering about whether they will ever get a pay increase. I think most employees recognize the tough fiscal climate that makes pay increases impossible right now. But, considering how long it's likely going to be, are the budget-makers investigating a way to provide a reasonable pay increase to County staff in the foreseeable future? Or can we expect that we will only receive pay increases when property values improve, no matter how long that is? I recognize that it's costly, but many people are wondering if pay increases are just permanently off the table at this point because we simply don't have enough money?

Edward Long : Compensation is definitely the largest item in the county and schools budget. For the past two years, we have not been able to give employees salary adjustments because of budget constraints. This is especially challenging for employees with rising health care costs and other demands on their household budget. As we review the future revenue growth in county budgets we realize that compensation increases must be included. However, for example, basic compensation adjustments for county and schools employees total $108 million. With future defecits projected for the next few years, this will be on of the most difficult challenges that will need to be addressed. County employees are the backbone of our organization and without them, our high quality of service delivery would not be possible.

CBB : I'm not in a position or situation where I can form one of those"focus groups," so hopefully, my question can be considered here. Would the Board of Supevisors consider another furlough day to offset some of the budget downfall as opposed to possible RIFS and/or layoffs? There's only been one recent furlough day and that was 1/3/2009. I haven't read, heard, or seen any other mention of this being a possibility. I am a county employee and would rather see this than see people lose their jobs or be the victim of a RIF. Thank you for your consideration.

Edward Long : Additional furlough days are not currently being considered to address future year budget shortfalls. Furloughs are not a good tool to use to address the budget on a long-term basis. They can be used for an emergency nature for a current fiscal year, but are not good to address long-term budget shortfalls. The best way to address long-term shortfalls is to size county programs to fit the projected revenue stream.

Anonymous User : What efforts is the county undertaking to try and get more state tax dollars into the county? Isn't the rate of how much is sent to Richmond disproportionate to what comes back into the county?

Edward Long : The county is in a constant struggle making sure that we are able to at least maintain the amount of revenue we receive from the state, which is about 2.7% of total General Fund revenues. Of every tax dollar we send to the state only 19 cents comes back to the county General Fund. So our negotiations with Richmond are constant and talk of future state budget cuts are of major concern to the county and the school system.

Anonymous User : How much money does Fairfax County have in the rainy day fund? Will you use some in the next budget to close the deficit?

Edward Long : The rainy day fund has a balance of approximately $103 million of non-recurring funds. The intent of the rainy day fund is not to be applied to future budget shortfalls, but to address unforseen revenue shortfalls that might occur during the current budget year. Policies on utilizing rainy day funds are strictly constructed. Current year revenues would have to decrease at least 1.5 percent before utilization of rainy day funds could be considered. The intent of the rainy day fund is to allow the Board to address revenue shortfalls of an emergency nature during the current year while considering what long-term adjustments are necessary to address the problem on a recurring basis.

Ben : Is the replacement for the Massey Building funded in your next budget? How will that new building be funded? Where will it be located?

Edward Long : The Public Safety/Massey building used to be the center of county government activity. The building is over 40 years old and has a multitude of maintenance and operational issues. Staff is currently reviewing options to be presented to the Board of Supervisors and we anticipate that the replacement of the building will be addressed as part of the 2012 Capital Improvement Plan.

Anonymous User : Could you tell me the status of the proposed co-location of the staff of the Clerk to the Board and the Planning Commission Office?

Edward Long : The consolidation of the Planning Commission Office and the Clerk to the Board was previously approved in our continuing efforts to streamline county government. Implementation details of this consolidation are currently being worked on by the various agencies and the Office of the County Executive.

Scott Knight : The next time that you have an unexpected surplus, can you use that to lower taxes instead of finding ways to spend it? There are plenty of bills that I can pay with money

Edward Long : Surpluses are generally identified as part of the county's year-end review. Unexpected surpluses typically represent non-recurring funds, which should not be utilized for recurring expenditures. With projected budget shortfalls anticipated over the next few fiscal years, surplus funds are typically set aside as a reserve and applied to address next year year's budget shortfall. Any reserve set aside can be utilized at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors for any purpose.

Anonymous User : I applaud your management of the budget the last few years. It's been a rough time. Why do schools get a lump sum of money? Why can't the government -- Fairfax -- demand more from the schools and how they spend more than 50 percent of the countywide budget?

Edward Long : While School Board members are elected, the School Board does not have the authorization to set tax rates or collect revenue. The setting of tax rates and the collection of revenue are the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors. Within the constraints of the state code, the Board of Supervisors typically transfers a lump sum of money to support Fairfax County schools. While the state code allows the board to transfer these funds in 7 different areas, the School Board ultimately determines how funds are spent for all school programs.

Reston : Does Fairfax actively and strongly promote shopping in the county? It seems like if you do more of that, then there would be more tax dollars coming in to pay for things. Same for restaurant weeks. Arlington and DC governments heavily encourage eating at local restaurants, which not only increases tax revenue, but builds community.

Edward Long : A portion of the county's transient occupancy tax (hotel/motel tax) is allocated to support Visit Fairfax ( One of the main functions of Visit Fairfax is to promote activity within Fairfax County such as restaurants, attractions, historical sites, etc. This is intented to attract residents and visitors to the many opportunities that exist within the county, while at the same time boosting the county's economy. It should be noted that the county currently is not authorized a meals tax as part of its revenue stream. Implementation of a meals tax would require approval through voter referenda.

Martha : I noticed in the forecast that there are 30,000 unemployed people in Fairfax. Does the county pay anything to help these people getback on their feet?

Edward Long : The current unemployment rate in the county is approximately 4.9%, or about 30,000 people are unemployed. While an unemployed person is eligle for federal and state unemployment benefits, the county through its social services agencies offers a multitude of programs intended to help people find a job. When people lose their job, a host of issues can arise, from meeting utility and rent payments to transportation and day care requirements. The county in cooperation with our nonprofit organizations offers a host of programs to help unemployed residents address these issues.

RIck in Kingstowne : What's the single biggest challenge in putting together a budget? What do you wish could be done differently, but that you have no control over?

Edward Long : Each annual budget offers a unique challenge. What makes the FY 2012 budget especially challenging is that it will be the fourth year of continuous budget reductions. As the county budget shrinks each year, identifying cuts becomes much more difficult. Because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state (, our toolbox to continually address budget issues is limited. Without the Dillon Rule, the county would be able to adjust the revenue stream to address the unique requirements of Fairfax County as opposed to other jurisdictions throughout the state.

Steve L. : I was doing a brief high level analysis on the county budget based on figures available to the public. Looking at the gross receipts from property tax, that same amount of income could be achieved by the county with a 0.5% increase in county sales tax. It has been discussed and desired for years to find a way to abolish property tax for local residents, is there any possibility that we could do so by increasing sales tax 0.5%? Most residents would concur that paying an extra penny on every $2 spent is much better than having to face an annual bill in the Fall.

Edward Long : An increase or adjustment to the sales tax in Fairfax County would require approval from the General Assembly since Virginia is a Dillon Rule state. Any suggestion to shift the tax burden from one tax to another or diversify the revenue stream is not possible without General Assembly approval. Roughly 63% of the county's revenue comes from real estate taxes, 15% comes from personal property taxes, and approximately 4.5% comes from sales taxes. Any shift in this distribution would have to take into account recent and projected trends in revenue collection, regressiveness of taxes collected, and the long-term strategic mix of the proper balance of the county's revenue stream.

Citizen Looking for Ways to Save : Everytime when I see Fairfax Connector buses on the raod, I noticed there's few or no passengers at all in the bus. Can't we save some tax payer's dollars by cutting Fairfax Connector service and let Metro take care of public transportation?

Edward Long : Each year, the county's Department of Transportation reviews Connector routes and Metro routes to determine if actual ridership merits continuing the service. If ridership does not support the routes, adjustments are made. County Connector buses are typically cheaper to run than Metro buses, and we are constantly looking for routes to be provided at the lowest cost possible.

Anonymous User : How are the proposed actions regarding Limited Term employees going to be addressed in the budget process?

Edward Long : The Board of Supervisors recently took action to address Limited Term, or seasonal, employees. The Department of Human Resources is currently in the process of reviewing the details necessary to implement the Board's action. Over the next 60 days, this information will be shared with county agencies.

Edward Long : I appreciate todays' questions as we begin discussing the FY 2012 budget. The actual budget proposal will not come out from the County Executive until February next year. I encourage each and every one of you to get involved in the budget process and let your ideas and opinions be known. The greater involvement will result in better decisions for the community as a whole. It will also help decision makers to identify areas that are important to you and address them as we go through the process. You can find complete budget information online at